Anderson Ranch, the internationally known hands-on contemporary art center, recently opened Finding Place (Snowmass Village, Colorado, December 7, 2015 – January 25, 2016), an exhibition of contemporary pottery by Alleghany Meadows and sculpture by Sara Ransford. Both are former artists-in-residence at Anderson Ranch. Both are accomplished ceramists but for the purpose of this post, which deals with pottery (not sculpture as in Ransford’s), we look at Meadows work.
Above image: Alleghany Meadows, Flora Zuppa, 2015, porcelain with glaze, 13″ diameter x 7.5″ tall
By its very existence, this work is a rebuke of the ignorance and myopia of the New York Times design editors. This was not the show’s mission, but its timing is propitious, providing an antidote to a recent piece in the Times that we discussed in an earlier post.
I am a long time subscriber to the Times and for forty years I’ve looked up to its erudition, authority, and its high journalistic standards. My favorite section (aside from Opinion) is the Friday arts and culture supplement. You will find no better team of reviewers, in my opinion.
However, when it comes to design, the Times promotes amateur hour. Often the social page dictates its design choices based on which Buffy made something or which Muffy bought it. Writers have no sense of design history or standards. It’s been appalling watching the trivializing of design in a world-class newspaper.
Ceramics has fared particularly poorly. On the art side the Times leads the world in accepting, then intelligently and respectfully dissecting ceramics as art. On design they feature the barely competent, mostly from the Brooklyn design community, which is at best a mixed bag.
I refer to a recent post we presented on ceramics being “white hot.” Do view the Times piece, see their selections, then come back here and enjoy what a real potter can do.
Meadows (yes, a child of the hippie movement) can put many potters, even skilled ones to shame with his talent, sense of form, seductive surfaces and precision throwing. These roundels are sets of plates, cups and bowls and they are breathtaking.
One might ask why the Times did not seek out this kind of excellence to illustrate its recurring bi-monthly warmed-over article on ceramics being hot. The reason for their sloppy treatment of the design world (and the ire is rising in that community) is that, alas, this great news source is like others in print, shrinking. A staffer who spoke to me about conditions described the journalistic departments as a “ghost town.”
Design has never been an American issue. Europe dominates and now Asia is rising as well. Design is actually a crucial subject, delivering to homes and tables the objects that make our life functional and aesthetically gratifying. I am sure that many in the design world will be happy to assist the Times gratis in raising their standards and sophistication. We understand the financial dilemma but there is still a little wiggle room for the squeaky wheel. (Pun intended).
Until then ignore the triviality that comes from their pages and go out and find true potters across the country whose work is extraordinary and affordable; the purity of Munemitsu Taguchi, the intentional naiveté of Ingrid Bathe, the while-on-white embossing of Andy Shaw, the pure joy of Sunshine Cobb, the sturdy North Carolina wares of Daniel Johnston, Mark Hewitt, Alex Matisse, Matt Jones, Josh Copus, and many, many, many others. There are a score of shops that stock handmade functional pottery, both for profit and non-profit, and just two suggestions are The Clay Studio in Philadelphia and Santa Fe Clay. A quick Google will reveal scores more.
To return to Meadows, rush to the Anderson Ranch to acquire one of these works, the best of his career. But if you are too late, never fear, he and his gallery partner Sam Harvey (also an excellent potter) run a premier gallery in Aspen for ceramics, Harvey/Meadows, and you can sign up for the fruits of the next firing.
Garth Clark is Editor-in-Chief of cfile.daily.
Love Alleghany Meadows’ contemporary pottery? Let us know in the comments!