TRACING THE LINES OF THE PHOTOGRAPH WITH CLAY
Duplicating Daniel is a collaborative exhibition project between Bay Area artist Kari Marboe and Mills College Art Museum (MCAM). On view at MCAM January 22-March 15, 2020, the exhibition traces Marboe’s attempts to recreate an original sculpture, recorded as missing from MCAM’s permanent collection, by the influential but under-recognized ceramicist Daniel Rhodes.The only remaining evidence of this sculpture is its accession date (1975, gift of the artist) and a murky black and white photograph.
Daniel Rhodes taught ceramics at Alfred University, New York, for 25 years and published six books on technical ceramics, including the widely relied upon Clay and Glazes for the Potter. Duplicating Daniel will feature Marboe’s attempts to recreate the original Rhodes sculpture based on data collected from research in the museum’s archives and descriptive information mined from interviews with artists and anecdotes from peers in the field of art. The exhibition will include Marboe’s numerous attempts to create physical ‘replicas’ of Rhodes’ sculpture including hand-built objects, 3-D printed ceramic models, written descriptions from colleagues, and other renditions of the original work. Additional areas of investigation include creating ceramic “kickstand” sculptures that address the question, if the piece now exists only as a photograph, how can we help it stand up and be a sculpture again? Marboe’s work will also explore the language of her process, including watercolor paintings using the sculpture’s potential color (described by ceramicist Nancy Selvin as an “uncool, but cool, brown”) to depict synonyms of the word “duplicate.”
In addition, the exhibition will feature related works from the museum’s renowned Antonio Prieto Collection of Contemporary Ceramics. During Antonio Prieto’s tenure (1950–67) as a Mills faculty member, the San Francisco Bay Area played an important role in the evolution of ceramics. Prieto amassed a personal collection of extraordinary breadth, including works by Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, Peter Voulkos, and Nancy Selvin. After Prieto’s death, artists further contributed to a memorial collection, bringing the total to over 400 works, primarily from Northern California, but also from elsewhere in the United States, England, and Japan. In 1970, the Prieto family donated the collection to the museum. The exhibition plays with this specific history of ceramics at Mills, the interconnectivity of the ceramics community, and the Bay Area’s cultural legacy. It examines the act of translating quotes into watercolors, gestures into sculptural forms, and the imbedded failure of trying to make, or be, an exact copy of something else. Marboe will continue to duplicate the original sculpture until the director and staff of MCAM agree that one version is a close enough duplicate to be placed back into the permanent collection. Due to the embedded failures of approximation, interpretation, and the hand of a maker, we cannot be sure which of these new sculptures is the truest copy of Rhodes’ work.