A riveting multi-media presentation by Garth Clark is on tour through December 15, 2018. It will be presented in New York, London, Amsterdam, Boston, Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland, Paris, Chicago, Oakland, Vancouver, Syracuse, Phoenix, Kansas City, Asheville, Dublin, Copenhagen and others cities. A few openings for your institution are available.
Garth Clark remains the most influential and provocative voice in international ceramics after five decades in the field; feared, loved, derided and celebrated, he is taking his final bow as a speaker with his WITNESS lecture tour. Author of over 80 books, 400 monographs essays and reviews, and Clark is currently the chief editor of the cutting edge cfile.daily that reaches 75,000 people in 196 countries.
Garth Clark exercises wide-ranging erudition and profound sophistication with a common touch…he is a welcoming voice—never condescending and “educational” but confident of the reader’s appetite for grown up complexities that are explored with clarity and feeling. —Peter Schjeldahl, art critic The New Yorker.
Known for his wit, erudition, deep scholarship and entertaining speaking style, Clark has embarked on the last of his legendary lecture tours. However, WITNESS is different in that it melds his own biography with the ceramics field history in the USA. Stylistically it is more like a one-person stage show than a conventional lecture, no podium, no reading from a script, with video snippets and a multimedia presentation. The title WITNESS is key; Clark is not an ivory tower theorist but has had his boots on the ground for half a century, with a particular knack of being physically present and often the key protagonist in some of the key revolutionary moments for ceramics since 1970.
He has worked with potters from the original studio pottery movement, many born in the 19th century, from Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew (subject of his second book in 1976) to the iconoclastic Beatrice Wood whom he represented until she was 105.
Taken together, Clark’s numerous interventions offer a seductive, selective version of the field…Clark’s is a masterful narrative that begins to look something like a canon: it is historicism that works against the ephemeral, the minor and the secondary, It makes clear, straightforward arguments for objects engaged in principles that Clark champions, pure form, authenticity and then if non-functional, the conceptually sound. Over time Clark’s exhibitions and books shifted the taste of the field, moving it towards a visual vocabulary on par with sculpture in its theoretical underpinnings and methodologies. —Jennie Sorkin: Live Form: Women, Ceramics and Community (2016).
After examining the peak and decline of the functional pottery empire, Clark shifted to the “Moderns” Lucie Rie (with whom he frequently had tea while a student at the Royal College of Art from 1973-74, London), Hans Coper and Ruth Duckworth.
The RCA was then the epicenter of a globally influential British post-modern ceramics movement with Liz Fritsch, Jacqueline Poncelet, Martin Smith and others. While there he began his groundbreaking research into Aeroceramica, 1920’s and 1930’s Italian Futurist ceramics, and also of Lucio Fontana’s love of clay (a book is in progress).
Moving to the US in 1975, he was the first to champion the maverick “mad potter of Biloxi,” George E. Ohr, who died in 1918 but was “rediscovered” in the 1970’s. Together with Margie Hughto, Clark curated the field’s one and only blockbuster, the groundbreaking A Century of Ceramics in the United States 1878-1978, a 450-object exhibition that toured the US for four years reaching New York, Washington DC, Chicago and other cities. The exhibition resulted the first book on modern US ceramic history, A Century of Ceramics in the United States. The exhibition inspired a PBS documentary narrated by Orson Welles that played for a decade. The event brought critical acclaim to a field long marginalized and began a new era for ceramics in American art.
I was going to talk here about the state of visual art in general at this time, but then I read Garth Clark’s catalogue text (A Century of Ceramics in the United States). It set many things going in my mind that hadn’t been there before. It also awakened echoes of my experience in other arts, other mediums. —Clement Greenberg, from Status of Clay, a paper delivered at the First International Ceramics Symposium, Syracuse, NY (1979)
Clark founded the Ceramic Arts Foundation in 1979 to present major conferences on modern ceramic scholarship. Eight symposiums were organized in Syracuse, Kansas City, New York, Toronto and London, with the last being, The Ceramic Millennium in Amsterdam in 1999, with a huge arts festival and three-day film festival that drew 3500 delegates from 56 countries.
Clark has worn many hats—teacher, administrator, editor, collector, gallerist—but on this occasion CAA honors him for the writings that have shaped thought about the field ceramics—and indeed the field itself. —Jury comments, Mather Award for Distinguished Art Journalism, College Art Association.
In 1981, with his partner, Mark Del Vecchio, founded the Garth Clark Gallery, a move sparked by his friendship with the Dada potter Beatrice Wood. The gallery quickly became the leading international art space for contemporary ceramics with locations in Los Angeles, Kansas City, New York (for 28 years) and briefly London. Clark and Del Vecchio offered a launchpad for a new generation of ceramic artists from the US, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia, featured many modern masters and actively built a bridge into the fine arts, adding to the gallery’s mix work by Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Sir Anthony Caro, Helen Frankenthaler, Lucio Fontana, and Grayson Perry (giving him his first and only New York solo show).
As an avid educationalist, Clark has talked to hundreds of audiences on five continents in venues from the Metropolitan Museum, New York to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and Sorbonne University in Paris, sharing his critical vision on the modern history of the medium and drawing SRO (standing room only) audiences across the globe.
The lecture ends with his two current fascinations. One is explaining what some call “sloppy craft,” a much aligned style of work, but which he prefers to label “The New Big Ugly.” This new(ish) wave is controversial and cutting edge, informal in its craft, multi-media, with an energetic anti-formalist approach to form and materials.
The second is what Clark closes the talk with: the emergence of terra cruda (Italian for “raw earth” as opposed to terra cotta which is “cooked earth”), the oldest sculptural medium in the world that contemporary artists have only “discovered” a decade ago and now have become the rage in art (including performance and process) with Rebecca Warren, Gabriel Orozco, Mark Manders, Urs Fisher, Adrian Villar Rojas and others.
This lecture series is not the end of Clark’s involvement in ceramics, just public speaking. “It is time to focus on other projects in dance and photography,” he says, quoting the Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler:
You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
For further information contact: Whitney Jones