One artwork by Daniel Rhodes in the Greenwich House Pottery Collection is from 1960 and has the title “Fish face. Jack Dempsey, whale pot. It’s a whale of a pot! Piranha pot!”. This is an unusual title for Rhodes’ practice, as is the squished basketball shape of the piece with the most distinct feature being the mouthlike slit on one side. There are two condition reports that accompany the vessel’s photographs. One recalls the state of the piece as being “excellent” while the other is noted as “good.” I let the sentiment of the words, as well as new combinations, guide the forms of my next round of sculptures. Out came a series of fin-covered, looping sculptures. I used the porcelain paper clay as a nod to the development and use of additives Daniel Rhodes is known for using in his work and also speaks about in Clay and Glazes for the Potter. The porcelain paper clay recipe and technique was shared with me by Lisa Chicoyne, artist and instructor at Greenwich House Pottery, while we had lunch a few blocks from the studio last summer.
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.