Last week, Cfile highlighted an exquisite exhibition Chinamania (July 9, 2016–June 4, 2017) at Arthur M. Sackler Gallery featuring kitschy stupas by artist Walter McConnell. This week, we want to share with with you a bit of the history of the West’s near-fanatical fascination with blue-and-white Chinese porcelain.
During the 17th century, many aristocratic palaces and country houses throughout Europe boasted a porcelain chamber, a room specifically built for large displays of ceramics. Later, in the Victorian era, the craze trickled down to the middle class, for whom blue-and-white ceramics became a sign of status and taste. These cultural commentators of the time both embraced and poked fun at the porcelain craze. Illustrator George du Maurier (1834–1896) parodied the fad skewering the habits and aesthetic aspirations of the Victorian middle class in a series of cartoons for Punch Magazine that documented what he mockingly called “Chinamania.” Intimately acquainted with the London art scene, du Maurier made the term “Chinamania” part of the Victorian era’s urban dictionary. His china-crazed men and women are more devoted to their porcelains than to their progeny.
About the artist: McConnell is a professor of ceramic art at Alfred University’s School of Art and Design. He is well known for his installations of moist clay and towering assemblages of cast porcelain. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Connecticut in 1974 and his Masters of Fine Arts in ceramic art from Alfred University in New York State in 1986. He has received grants from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. The Denver Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, MASS MoCA in North Adams, the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Missouri, the University of Colorado Art Museum in Boulder and SOFA [Sculpture Objects and Functional Art], New York, have shown his installations of moist clay and towering assemblages of cast porcelain. He has exhibited internationally in Sweden, the Netherlands, Taiwan, China and Korea. Essays and reviews on McConnell’s work have appeared in Sculpture Magazine, World Sculpture News, New Art Examiner, Ceramics: Art and Perception, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Ceramics Monthly.
Text (edited) from Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Do you love or loathe these illustrations from the worlds of contemporary ceramic art and contemporary ceramics. Let us know in the comments.