American Museum of Ceramic Art
Pomona, CA

American Museum of Ceramic Art
399 North Garey Avenue
Pomona, CA 91767
(909) 865-3146

Email: frontdesk@amoca.org


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Don Reitz: Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

Amy Santoferraro: Two on a Lot, Three on the Tree

New Acquisitions from Julianne and David Armstrong

The Artists of Mettlach

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Don Reitz: Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal
June 4, 2021–February 20, 2022

Don Reitz is broadly recognized as one of the most influential American ceramic artists of the last century. Known by many in the ceramics community as “Mr. Salt” for his role in almost single-handedly reviving the salt-fire tradition in American studio ceramics, the New York Times recognized Reitz as “one of a small cadre of midcentury artisans who expanded the medium to include immense, intellectually provocative works of abstract art” (New York Times, March 30, 2014). This exhibition will add to the significant body of scholarship on Reitz’s work with new research on the well-known but largely unstudied “Sara Series” (1983-91). This exhibition will feature, together for the first time, over 40 works from this series.

The catalyst for this body of work is no less dramatic than the work itself. “In 1982 Reitz nearly lost the use of his left arm and leg in a serious truck accident. Laid up for months and in constant pain,” he sank into a deep depression (Don Reitz: Clay, Fire, Salt, and Wood, Clowes). It is during this period of despair that Reitz’ father passed away and his niece, Sara Gula, was diagnosed with cancer. A regular exchange of letters and drawings between Reitz and his niece saw them through the worst of their convalescence.

From this correspondence, Reitz drew new inspiration. “Fired with fury and devotion” from the shared tragedies, Reitz returned to the studio and began producing a torrent of new work (Clowes). His students rolled clay slabs, and on them Reitz painted with vivid colors images from Sara and from his childhood: “trains and fishing holes…long-toothed monsters and broken flowers, all wrapped together with a swift, thin, anxious line” (Clowes). The “Sara Series” was born.

The artistic significance that the “Sara Series” held for Reitz has not been thoroughly examined. For almost half a decade preceding this body of work, Reitz had been experimenting in a variety of mediums and modes without – in his own words – success. “[P]hoto-transfers…unfired clay, plate glass, sausage casings, trophy heads, water, and (once) live fish” were all tried; “[I had] lost [my] north” (Clowes). The “Sara Series” played a critical role in reconnecting Reitz to his artistic process and reinvigorating his artistic production. It ignited the following 30 years of work and set the stage for his acclaimed wood-fire period.

Don Reitz (1929-2014) was named twice during his lifetime as one of the most influential ceramic artists alive, and received numerous awards, including the first Ceramic Art Award from the American Ceramic Society, the Aileen Osborn Webb Gold Medal from the American Crafts Council, and the Distinguished Educator Award from the James Renwick Alliance. Reitz is primarily known for two bodies of work: his salt-fired works and his wood-fired works. The former was largely produced during the first 20 years of his career, and the latter took up the final three decades of his career.

A child of the Great Depression, Reitz served in the Navy as a salvage diver before exploring life as a truck driver, sign painter, and butcher. The G.I. Bill allowed Reitz to enroll in college, and after a semester at Kutztown State Teacher’s College he was hooked on clay. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1957, Reitz taught in Dover, NJ public schools for a few years before enrolling at Alfred University where he earned his master of fine arts degree in 1962. He subsequently joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he taught 1962-88. In 1988, he relocated to a ranch and built a studio in Clarkdale, AZ.

His prodigious body of work is represented in over 50 distinguished public and private collections including: American Museum of Ceramic Art (CA), Arkansas Arts Center, Arizona State University Art Museum, Chazen Museum of Art (WI), Contemporary Art Museum, (HI), Daum Museum of Contemporary Art (MO), De Young, Fine Arts Museums (CA), High Museum of Art (GA), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (CA), Milwaukee Museum of Art (WI), Mint Museum of Craft + Design (NC), Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred University (NY), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MA), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (TX), Smithsonian American Art Museum (DC), and the Weismann Art Museum (MN). His papers are held at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.

Amy Santoferraro: Two on a Lot, Three on the Tree
June 4–August 22, 2021 - TBD

Two on a Lot, Three on a the Tree is Amy Santoferraro’s site-specific installation in the Vault Gallery at AMOCA. The installation will include a number of live documentary explorations of Santoferraro’s installation process, broadcast and recorded on YouTube Live.

Amy Santoferraro
Amy Santoferraro, born in Akron, Ohio, received her MFA in Ceramic Art from The New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, in Alfred, New York in 2012. She earned her BAE (Art Education) and her BFA (Ceramics) from The Ohio State University In 2004.

She has been a summer resident and studio manager at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine and now serves on the advisory board. She was a resident artist at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and a four-year resident artist at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Santoferraro was awarded a McKnight Residency Grant for Ceramic Artists in a partnership through the McKnight Foundation and The Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She was the ceramics area coordinator and an assistant professor of art at Kansas State University. She was the Spring 2017 visiting instructor in residence at Oregon College of Arts and Craft in Portland, Oregon and the program manager, MFA Applied Craft and Design (OCAC/PNCA) in Portland, Oregon. Santoferraro is currently the Joan and David Lincoln Visiting Professor at Scripps College and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California.

New Acquisitions from Julianne and David Armstrong
Through July 18, 2021

As an undergraduate at Pomona College in Claremont, California, in 1959, David Armstrong enrolled in a required art course taught by Scripps College Professor Paul Soldner. Soldner’s renowned charisma charmed Armstrong and awakened a passion for the ceramic arts, so much so that Armstrong returned in the 1990s to pursue an MFA degree at The Claremont Graduate School. His passion for ceramic art matured into a love of collecting, and, with his spouse Julianne, he began assembling a comprehensive and enviable collection of post-World War II ceramic art from North America.

New Acquisitions from Julianne and David Armstrong, celebrating a donation of extraordinary works to the American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) from the Armstrongs, includes rarely-seen works by some of North America’s leading ceramic artists, among them notable groupings of work from faculty and graduates from Alfred University (Andrea Gill, Ted Randall, Victor Babu, Andrea Gill, Don Reitz, Richard Shaw, Ted Randall, Josh DeWeese, Karen Karnes, Peter Pincus, and more) and from Otis College of Art and Design (including Peter Voulkos, Harrison McIntosh, Porntip Sangvanich, Ralph Bacerra, John Mason, and Ricky Maldonado).

Works from Maldonado, Bacerra, and Rose Cabat exemplify the flashy, colorful influences of Los Angeles. Trompe-l’œil work from Shaw, Sylvia Hyman, David Furman and Victor Spinski are definitive examples of the North American take on this century’s old technique. Sculptural and figurative works from a host of other luminaries, including Voulkos, Richard Devore, Peter Callas, Patti Warashina, Joe Bova, Betty Davenport-Ford, Margaret Keelan, Gina Lawson-Egan, Janis Mars-Wunderlich, Glenn Takai, MacIntosh, Jens Morrison, and Rimas VisGirda round out this remarkable selection. Taken together, it is an impressive representation of ceramic artistic production in North America over the last century, and the Armstrongs’ preserving and sharing these artistic traditions with the public.

Education programs are made possible in part by the Ruth and Joseph C. Reed Foundation for the Arts.

Lecture by Richard Shaw
Born in Hollywood in 1941, Richard Shaw spent the 1960s studying at the San Francisco Art Institute and University of California, Davis, where he received his BFA and MFA degrees. Known for his hyper-realistic sculpture work, Shaw’s early career was influenced by time spent with Robert Arneson, Jim Melchert, Peter Voulkos John Mason, Robert Hudson, and Ron Nagle. A professor at the University of California, Berkeley since 1987, Shaw is recognized as a leading force in the development and direction of ceramics in the last half of the twentieth century.

Richard Shaw was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Crafts Grant in 1970 and the National Endowment for the Arts Grant in 1974. His works can be found in the collections of highly prestigious national and international museums including the Smithsonian, Whitney Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

The Artists of Mettlach
Through July 2021

Villeroy and Boch was founded in 1836 when a French ceramics company founded by Jean François Boch (1782-1858) merged with a German ceramics company started by Nicolas Villeroy (1759-1843). The merging of the two companies reduced competition between them and allowed them to increase production while lowering overall cost, thus growing the size of their combined markets. The merger also leveraged their competitive strength against popular ceramic imports from England and Asia.

During this time, Europe was also becoming increasingly industrial, and advancements in technology made the manufacturing of goods more efficient and less expensive. Widespread industrialization brought prosperity to Europe, helping to establish a growing middle class interested in everyday consumer goods.

Villeroy and Boch’s Mettlach factory, located in Mettlach, Germany near the French border, was one of the company’s most productive factories. The Mettlach factory was housed in a restored former Benedictine Abbey dating back to the 10th century. Between 1880 and 1910, the Mettlach factory reached the pinnacle of its production, and this period is often considered the Golden Age of Mettlach.

Although Mettlach wares were mass-produced in a factory setting, internal company innovations created exciting new opportunities to combine art and industry. In addition to the highly skilled factory workers the company employed to aid in production (1,250 at its peak), Villeroy and Boch also employed a large number of artists and designers to create the artwork on the ceramic wares. Though many pieces are unsigned, some Mettlach pieces carry the mark of their artist. Mettlach designs were either created by resident artists or guest artists commissioned specifically for the Mettlach factory. This exhibition features some of the artists and designers that contributed to the prestigious Villeroy and Boch brand.

Mettlach employed artists from a variety of artistic and vocational backgrounds, working in a wide range of artistic styles. The artists of Mettlach typically worked in residence at the factory for periods of several months or years. In some instances, entire careers were devoted to working for Villeroy and Boch. Many of Mettlach’s artists worked in their own unique styles, producing some of Villeroy & Boch’s most memorable designs.

Unfortunately, recorded information about lesser known artists is scarce because of a fire at the Mettlach factory in 1921, which destroyed most records about artists and production techniques. Despite this lack of written history, Mettlach experts have been able to identify particular artists from posters, postcards, and from existing Mettlach pieces. Some artists clearly signed their work with their full name, while others incorporated a symbol or their initials within the artwork.

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