Feature Articles

March 2011

Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC, Features Cherokee Ceramics and Works by Robert Motherwell

The Asheville Art Museum in Asheville, NC, will present the exhibit, Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics, on view in Gallery 6, from Mar. 17 through Aug. 12, 2012. A reception will be held on Mar. 18, from 2-4pm. The Museum will also present the exhibit, The Essential Idea: Robert Motherwell’s Graphic Works, on view in the Appleby Foundation Gallery, from Mar. 31 through Aug. 26, 2012.

The Cherokee have been making pottery in Western North Carolina for almost 3,000 years. Though nearly disappearing in the 19th century, the tradition survived, emerging as a contemporary art form enriched by the Cherokee artists who have carefully preserved and passed on their practice from one generation to the next.

For the first 2,000 years of the tradition, Cherokee potters created large, thin-walled, waterproof pots that were stamped with geometric designs. But early in the 20th century this style was almost entirely replaced by the production of heavier pottery, termed blackware, which was incised rather than stamped, a style common to the Catawba, Pueblo and Navajo tribes at that time. Though heavily influenced by these other Native American traditions, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians developed their own techniques. Commonly referred to as the traditional style, this work persisted as the dominant form for the duration of the 20th century.

It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that Cherokee potters revived the historic, thin-walled pottery style. Also during the present century, a third category of artists working in a contemporary style emerged producing highly decorated and glazed ceramic works. Many of these artists utilize the Cherokee syllabary or other Cherokee symbols in their work.

Prints rarely receive the same attention as paintings. Yet printmaking is a demanding medium, one that requires extensive technical knowledge and collaboration. Robert Motherwell was unusual among his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries because of his interest in and mastery of printmaking.

Motherwell produced his first prints in 1943 and returned to printmaking in the early 1960s at the invitation of the Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) print studio. His later work with Tyler Graphics, Gemini Graphics Edition Limited (G.E.L.) and others evolved into an impressive body of almost 500 prints. Throughout his career, Motherwell developed a network of relationships with workshops and presses, eventually purchasing his own etching press and hiring a Master Printer to work in his studio.

A key figure in postwar art, Motherwell was the youngest of the first-generation Abstract Expressionists. Born in Aberdeen, WA, in 1915, Motherwell initially planned to be a philosopher, earning a Bachelor’s degree in the discipline from Stanford University and later enrolling in a Doctoral program at Harvard University. He left academia and devoted himself to painting following a trip to Europe in 1938. In addition to his groundbreaking work as a painter, Motherwell was an accomplished author and critic, as well as a prolific printmaker. His graphic work distinguished him as an innovator and producer of stunning imagery. By the time of his death in 1991, his career had been widely celebrated with countless exhibitions at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The Asheville Art Museum is pleased to present an exhibition examining Robert Motherwell’s accomplishments as a graphic artist while also examining these works in the larger context of his artistic production.

This exhibition was organized and curated by the Asheville Art Museum with support from the Dedalus Foundation.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 828/253-3227 or visit (www.ashevilleart.org).


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