Reprint // Duplicating Daniel
Reprint // Duplicating Daniel
Mills College Art Museum
Photo Credit: John Janca

This exhibition contains the largest, and only, collection of Clay and Glazes for the Potter by Daniel Rhodes. The book, first published by the Chilton Book Company in 1957, is a widely used textbook on ceramics to this day. In the 1957 First Edition there is a description of the fiberglass technique being invented and perfected by Rhodes. The 1973 Second Edition description was updated and focused on the dangers of fiberglass use. Other additives such as burlap and nylon fiber remain safe.

My career in Ceramics has had two distinct aspects. One has been teaching and writing, and the other making pottery and sculpture . . . My enthusiasm for clay led me to dig deeply into its history, its relationship to the other arts, its technology, its beauty as a craft. Without much conscious effort, I became something of an encyclopedia on the subject. As a teacher, I learned to organize the material, to put it into digestible form. My writing was an extension of my teaching . . . Writing also clarified my mind as well as that of the reader.
-Daniel Rhodes, Ceramics Monthly, September 1987

Duplicating Daniel
Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA
January 22-March 15, 2020

Duplicating Daniel traces artist Kari Marboe’s attempts to recreate an original sculpture, recorded as missing from Mills College Art Museum’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 photocopy.

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 features Marboe’s attempts to recreate the original Rhodes sculpture based on data collected from research in the museum’s archives, as well as the archives at Alfred University and Greenwich House Pottery, NY, and descriptive information mined from interviews with artists and curators who knew Rhodes and his work.

The exhibition includes Marboe’s numerous attempts to create physical ‘replicas’ of Rhodes’ sculpture and other renditions developed in the course of her research. 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 also explores 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.” At the end of the exhibition, one of Marboe’s sculptures will enter the museum’s permanent collection as a replacement for the missing Rhodes piece.

In addition, the exhibition also features 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. The exhibition plays with this specific history of ceramics at Mills, the interconnectivity of the ceramics community, and the Bay Area’s cultural legacy.

The first iteration of this work was developed in collaboration with A-B Projects, Los Angeles, 2018. Nicole Seisler, curator/director, started the space as a site for expanded ceramics, and was instrumental in encouraging this project and providing the title for the exhibition.

Many thanks to all the collaborators and lenders to the exhibition: Andrea and John Gill, Arthur Gonzalez, John Hosford, Susan Kowalczyk, Philip Linhares, Nathan Lynch, Kaitlin McClure, Del Miller, Rosa Novak + Mutual Stores, Nancy Selvin, Linda Sormin, Michael Swaine, Luke Turner, Adam Welch, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Ceramics Community at California College of the Arts. Kari Marboe: Duplicating Daniel is supported through the generosity of the Agnes Cowles Bourne Fund for Special Exhibitions.