The Short List: June/July 2012

The Short List: June/July 2012

Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics

Photo: Mark LaFavor

Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics
The Garth Clark & Mark Del Vecchio Collection 
By Garth Clark and Cindi Strauss 
Yale University Press/Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, $100

Six years ago, Garth Clark and Mark Del Vecchio, the eminent ceramics dealers and advocates, approached Cindi Strauss, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, about placing their landmark collection of post-World War II ceramics. The museum celebrated that gift this year with a grand exhibition – and immortalized it in this splendid 484-page catalog. With essays by Glenn Adamson, Ezra Shales, and Jorunn Veiteberg, Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics offers excellent, insightful writing; a highlight is Clark’s 32-page opening memoir, a candid and witty reflection on decades spent in remarkable service to the field. But at center stage, fittingly, are the 481 works, beautifully reproduced in full-color plates. Many are accompanied by artist profiles and full-page, even full-spread close-ups. Chinese (1984), for example, a vivid but petite Ken Price, is depicted in its glass and wood case; a turn of the page reveals two stunning views of the brilliantly hued, 5-inch-high piece. A photo-illustrated checklist of the collection and artist biographies round out the volume, making it a resource, a chronicle, and an inspiration all in one.  ~Julie K. Hanus

Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration
20 New Designs with Historic Roots
By Denyse Schmidt
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $30

Denyse Schmidt’s contemporary art quilts are things of enduring style and beauty, but few fans realize her 16-year career as a textile artist began when Schmidt fell in love with tried-and-true, centuries-old traditional quilt patterns – from Basketweave and Orange Peel to Streak of Lightning and Mariner’s Compass. Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration is the artist’s return to this fertile terrain, featuring her colorful and updated take on 20 time-tested designs. Schmidt contextualizes each quilt pattern with historical details and pertinent notes on her adaptations. Full-page photos of gorgeous quilts – full of those bold geometric shapes that first inspired her – provide ample motivation, while detailed instructions, a pull-out book of templates, and a section detailing tools and techniques offer plenty of how-to support, even for novice makers.  ~Andrew Zoellner 

Jewelry by Artists: In the Studio 1940-2000
Selections from the Daphne Farago Collection
By Kelly H. L’Ecuyer
MFA Publications, $55

When the 1,800-square-foot Daphne and Peter Farago Gallery for craft opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in September, we were inspired to revisit this lushly illustrated volume, documenting the Faragos’ other great gift to MFA –  jewelry. In the late 1980s, Daphne Farago began collecting jewelry that represented excellence and gave her joy. But the Providence, Rhode Island, art lover grew more ambitious; she wanted to build a museum-worthy collection, which meant studying such masters as Alexander Calder, Margaret De Patta, Sam Kramer, Mary Lee Hu, and others. In 2006, Farago gave her collection to the MFA, which documented it in Jewelry by Artists, a fascinating history of the field. The book is a testament to Farago’s keen eye and good judgment, with accessible and authoritative essays by Kelly H. L’Ecuyer and other MFA curators.  ~Monica Moses