“Brehms Tierleben. Allgemeine Kunde des Tierreichs. Säugetiere – Dritter Band.”
Paulus Potter. Deer in the Wood. 1647
People who encounter an Ann Hamilton installation work tend never to forget it.
I can clearly recall pieces of hers that I saw in San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Pittsburgh and -- in two settings -- in New York.
So it stunned me to learn from Hamilton that "very little of my installation work has survived in any way. The Hirshhorn (Washington, D.C.) has a piece, but there's not a lot. I think it's not perceived as the kind of thing that has a longer life. So to enter the conversation about what it means to revisit something like this and bring it forward is a really great thing for me to be able to do."
I recently spoke with Hamilton, 50, while she was working on reconstructing "Indigo Blue" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the work was originally made in 1991 for a citywide show in Charleston, S.C.
SFMOMA hopes to acquire "Indigo Blue" in its current manifestation, rescuing it from recycling and cultural amnesia. Score another sharp collection-building move for curator Madeleine Grynsztejn if it happens.
Critical and curatorial consensus as to Hamilton's importance got corroboration from the MacArthur Foundation in 1993, when it put her in the select company of visual artists who have received the so-called genius grant. "It was an enormous gift," Hamilton said, "because it said 'you can keep doing this work that you really love doing.' "
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art had already staged a major show of her work in 1988.
"Indigo Blue" consists of roughly 18,000 items of blue cotton work clothing, neatly folded and stacked on a "floating" steel platform at the center of a room on SFMOMA's second floor.
At one end of the platform stands an old wood table and chair. From noon to 4 p.m. each day -- except Wednesdays when the museum is closed -- a volunteer sits silently at the table, erasing, thus effectively destroying, the pages of a book: "International Law Situations," a Naval War College publication pertaining to legally defined land and water boundaries. The book connects in Hamilton's thinking with Charleston's history as a seaport but she is also interested in the invisible activity of reading as a reflection of the invisible labor represented by the work clothes. "The books we originally used," as Hamilton said -- she has a boxful -- "are legal documents that mediate the relationship between land and water. That in-between space, and how you occupy the space of the in-between, is still very interesting to me."
'The Maggot Bearing Stapelia, Stapelia sp.'
Plate from Robert John Thornton's 'Temple of Flora'
Colour aquatint with additional colour by hand
Published between 1799 and 1807
Museum no. Circ.524-1967
The Temple of Flora (1799-1807), from which this plate is drawn, remains a highly unusual publication. The illustrations were undertaken by portrait and landscape artists, resulting in some extraordinary images of botanically inaccurate plants placed against fantastical backdrops: an unorthodox device within the conventions of botanical illustration.
Here the Maggot-bearing Stapelia - a plant that produces a putrid odour to attract flies - assumes enormous proportions and is set against a background more akin to a Scottish rock garden than to its native southern African habitat.
NCECA learned from Dan Anderson early Wednesday morning, March 9, 2011 that Toshiko Takaezu had passed away earlier that day in Honolulu, Hawaii. Well known for works of quiet emotional impact that artfully integrate glaze color and surface qualities with austere forms, Toshiko was named an honorary member of NCECA in 1993. Born in 1922 in Pepeekeo on the Big Island, Takaezu's interest in pottery initiated at the Hawaii Potters Guild on Oahu. She attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa before going on to receive her MFA at the Cranbrook Academy of Art under Maija Grotell. Early in her career, Takaezu developed an approach to art that combines techniquesToshiko Takaezu and sensibilities of both East and West. In the 1950s, she studied in Japan with master potter Toyo Kaneshige. Later, she taught at Cleveland Institute of Art and established studios in Clinton and Quakertown, N.J. In 1992 she retired from teaching at Princeton University from which she was subsequently awarded an honorary doctorate. Her lifelong, passionate dedication to her art and teaching were recognized through a Living Treasure Award from the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii.
From Dan Anderson: NCECA Honorary Member, Toshiko Takaezu died peacefully, under hospice care, this past week, at a convalescent center in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was 88 years old. Much has been written and documented about Toshiko's life and her marvelous ceramics, fiber pieces, bronzes and paintings. Her obvious legacy will certainly be the thousands of her artworks that reside in both public and private collections. She spent the last two years of her life de-accessing her vast inventory of signature ceramic pieces to public collections. Her not-so-obvious gift will be the impact she has had on the contemporary ceramics community, particularly female ceramic artists. Never marrying, she was still able to have a large "family" consisting of her former apprentices, students and many, many friends. An apprentice once remarked, "Toshiko was mother to us all!" Words like passion, commitment, loyalty, dedication, caring, altruistic, toughness and love guided her daily existence. Toshiko lived life to the fullest and on her own terms. She was as comfortable picking string beans in her vegetable garden and cooking in her kitchen, as she was turning porcelain closed forms on her Shimpo potters wheel in her basement studio. In fact, she often commented how there was really no difference between the three: growing vegetables, cooking and making pots. Those members of NCECA who knew her will have their own stories and memories to share about her life and genius. As for me, although I am deeply saddened by her death, I am able to celebrate her life and her beauty, and the exceptional memories I possess, lingers just beyond the cloud that her final passing brings for the moment.
Toshiko Takaezu's art has been featured in major one-person exhibitions, including at:
The Contemporary Museum of Hawaii, Honolulu
The Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
Dickinson College, Carlyle, PA
Montclair Museum, Montclair, NJ
LongHouse Reserve Museum, East Hampton, NY
The American Crafts Museum of New York (Now, The Museum of Art and Designs)
The Museum of Art of The University at Albany, Albany, NY
The Hunterdon Museum, Clinton, NJ
Goshen College, Goshen, IN
Perimeter Gallery, Chicago, IL
The Racine Art Museum, Racine, WI
The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum, Biloxi, MI
The Charles Cowles Gallery, NY, NY
The Gallery at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Manatee Community College, Bradenton, FL
Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art, Greensboro, North Carolina
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
Neuberger Museum, Purchase, NY
And her work is featured in the permanent collections of many great museums, including:
The Japanese American National Museum of Los Angeles, CA
The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY
The Milwaukee Museum of Art
The Johnson Wax Collection, Racine, WI
The Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, HI
The Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY
Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Boston Fine Arts Museum, Boston, MA
The Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI
St. Paul Gallery, St. Paul, MN
Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH
“Isis (Sirius),” glazed stoneware by Toshiko Takaezu (1999-2000). Photographed by Michael Tropea
Toshiko Takaezu, United States, Untitled (Dark Blue, Brown), 2000, porcelain, 7.5 x 5 x 5”