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
Solo Exhibition by Kari Marboe
Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA
January 22-March 15, 2020
Duplicating Daniel traced 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.
The exhibition included Marboe’s numerous attempts to create physical ‘replicas’ of Rhodes’ sculpture and other renditions developed in the course of her research, and not based solely on the formal properties of the missing work. Research sites included the museum’s archives, Alfred University, NY archives, Greenwich House Pottery, NY archives, and descriptive information mined from interviews with artists and curators who knew Rhodes and his work.
Topics of investigation included 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.” Additionally, she married her own forms with the technique of adding fiber or burlap to the sculpture based on Rhodes’ work.
The exhibition engaged the history of ceramics, the interconnectivity of the ceramics community and the Bay Area’s cultural legacy, as well as the acts of translation, and the embedded failure of trying to make, or be, an exact copy of something else. At the end of the exhibition, one of Marboe’s sculptures, Unmistakable Feel of Pottery, entered the museum’s permanent collection as a replacement for the missing Rhodes piece.
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: Nathan Lynch, Stephanie Hanor, Jayna Swartzman-Brosky, Eli Thorne, Andrea and John Gill, Arthur Gonzalez, John Hosford, Susan Kowalczyk, Philip Linhares, 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 was supported through the generosity of the Agnes Cowles Bourne Fund for Special Exhibitions.