Look-alike // Duplicating Daniel
Look-alike // Duplicating Daniel
Mills College Art Museum
Photo credit: John Janca
2020

Arthur Gonzalez, figurative sculptor and Professor at California College of the Arts, shows me what a Daniel Rhodes sculpture looks like. I make a duplicate. Accuracy is at an all time high.

Looked at subjectively, pottery-making can be thought of not so much as an activity resulting in so many bowls, cups, or jars of some assumed function, value or aesthetic merit but rather as the outcome of our urge to form and, in forming the clay, to find our own form.
-Daniel Rhodes: Pottery and the Person, Excerpt from Pottery Form by Daniel Rhodes, Ceramics Monthly, January 1977

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.