Claytopia 2019 Celebrates Ceramics and MacKenzie’s Mingei Movement

Courtesy National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts

In preparation for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts’ annual conference, held this year March 27-30 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, galleries throughout the Twin Cities have been mounting special exhibitions that celebrate artists’ diverse approaches to working with clay. Why Minneapolis this year, the first time since 1995?

“Since the 1960s, the Twin Cities region has played a pivotal role in shaping a renaissance in studio pottery and craft as cultural forces,” explains the NCECA website. “Adaptation of Mingei-inspired ideals within the American heartland drove a vision of artfulness in daily life. Claytopia will engage regional, national and international artists, thinkers, curators, educators, and students to produce an array of exhibitions and experiences that build on, respond to, celebrate, and push against ceramic art’s diverse legacies. Together, we will expand critical discourse on teaching, learning, aesthetics, social impacts, design thinking, and artistic production.”

The Weisman Art Museum holds a reception for NCECA on Thursday, March 28, from 5-9 p.m., during which attendees are invited to visit the exhibition The Persistence of Mingei: Influence through Four Generations of Ceramic Artists, an exhibition that pays homage to the late Warren MacKenzie, as well as to his many predecessors, students, and colleagues.

Warren MacKenzie, no title, 1989, glazed stoneware. Gift of Nancy and Warren MacKenzie. Courtesy Weisman Art Museum
Bernard Leach, no title, 1956, glazed porcelain. Gift of Nancy and Warren MacKenzie. Courtesy Weisman Art Museum

Writing about the exhibition, Weisman director and chief curator Lyndel King explain that “The word mingei, meaning art of the people, was coined by a Japanese philosopher in the early 1920s. His ideas started a movement in Japan that challenged society’s narrow definition of art by focusing on everyday objects created by average people. It can be seen as a response to Japan’s rapid industrialization as it elevated objects made by the hands of individual craftspeople, rather than produced in a factory.”

“A similar process of industrialization led to the Arts and Crafts movement in England, which was meant to preserve the traditions of handmade functional objects. Bernard Leach, an English ceramic artist, brought the Mingei movement to England at his pottery in rural St. Ives, England, which he established with Japanese potter Shōji Hamada in 1920. The Mingei movement came to Minnesota through Warren MacKenzie.”

Exhibitions open to the public now and through the end of Claytopia include:

A showcase with 20 artists who create components that are juxtaposed to create new messages and meanings about containers and containment, including Eric Hoefer, Jeff Wyman, Jan McKeachie Johnston, Alleghany Meadows, Diane Lublinski, Mathew Isaacson, Dan Anderson, Susan Beiner, Steve Hilton and Syd Carpenter.

Ceramics as an interdisciplinary art receives dynamic treatment in this exhibition of work by 35 international artists. Here painting, sculpture, pottery, film and installations intersect in exploratory works that merge and transcend art and craft.

  • Urban Parallel, Artistry, Bloomington Center for the Arts, Bloomington
Broken Things, earthenware, Livia Marin. Courtesy Artistry Theater and Visual Arts
Deer with Alphabet Blanket, porcelain paper clay, Susan O’Byrne. Courtesy Artistry Theater and Visual Arts

The history and legacy of ceramics in Glasgow, Scotland is the focus of this show, which features sculptural work by Andrea Walsh, Dawn Youll, James Rigler, Susan O’Byrne, Livia Marin and Jonathan Wade.

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