Collaborations are the norm in contemporary fine art and there as many reasons for it as there are artists who team up: they may be interested in circumventing the art market, involved in social practices, or taking advantage of the hybridized and specialized nature of our society. Leave it to the Danish ceramist, Anders Ruhwald, to devise a highly conceptual collaboration that illuminates materiality and craft.
One Thing Follows Another (and You Make It Happen) has it’s origins in a kind of “telephone” game; Ruhwald built three ceramic sculptures then asked student artists to translate these forms into glass and wood. Ruhwald is the head of the ceramics department and an artist-in-residence at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and it was Cranbrook students who created the wood sculptures. Ruhwald was previously an artist-in-residence at Ball State University’s School of Art and students at the Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass constructed the glass sculptures. The exhibition will be on display at the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana until Jan. 5, 2014.
The project unfolded over a two-year period, which must have spawned hundreds of conversations, which may be the single biggest reward of art collaborations. Ruhwald has stated that the show concerns “translations, communications and authorships,” and that, “It’s about how forms make sense through various materials and through a range of people’s hands.” His original three pieces are essentially totems of vase and urn forms—which are fundamental to the history of ceramics. It is fascinating how different the nearly identical forms feel due to the material they were made from. The worked, slightly mottled texture of the ceramic pieces is in stark contrast to the regular forms and sumptuous pattern of the grain of the wood versions. The glass iterations are something completely different again, with sensuous, rounded edges and faint changes in translucency that is determined by the dimensions of the joined, blown pieces.
In the publication that accompanied the show, Davira S. Taragin, who is a Consultative Curator of Decorative Arts of the David Owsley Museum of Art, explained the installation of the work:
As in Ruhwald’s earlier installations, the setting which the stacked forms are installed is integral to their interpretation. The wood totems are positioned by themselves in the introductory gallery to familiarize the visitor with the form. Continuing his ongoing interest in lighting fixtures, Ruhwald designed four simple steel standing lamps for each grouping of ceramic and glass in the two main exhibition spaces. Governed by timers, the lamps periodically switch on and off in each of the galleries. All other gallery lighting was eliminated so that the lamps would control the visitor’s perception of the forms and at the same time introduce mechanical process into the handmade. The idea for these surges of light was prompted by a visit Ruhwald made to the Verallia factory in nearby Dunkirk, Indiana, where he watched beer bottles and Ball jars being make on automatic glassmaking machines.
Anders Ruhwald was born in Denmark and educated at the Glass and Ceramics School in Bornholm, Denmark and at the Royal College of Art in London. He is noted for work that explores the boundaries of the ceramic medium as an idea and as a material. Ruhwald has been honored with a number of international awards, including a three-year work stipend from the Danish Art Foundation in 2010, the Sotheby Prize from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2007, and the Annie and Otto Johannes Detlef’s Award for young, experimental ceramic artists from the Museum of Art & Design in Denmark.
Above image: Installation view of Anders Ruhwald’s One Thing Follows Another (and You Make It Happen) at the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana in 2013. Courtesy of the artist.