Columbia Museum of Art
1515 Main St.
Columbia, South Carolina
The Columbia Museum of Art announces its exciting summer exhibition, From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces, on view June 12 through September 13, 2015. The exhibition is a thematically focused look at the artist's influential silkscreens and his interest in portraits. Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is central to the pop art movement and one of the best-known 20th-century American artists. From Marilyn to Mao uses 55 of Warhol's famous portraits to explore pop art's tenet of the cult of celebrity, the idea that pop culture adores the famous simply because they are famous. Warhol exploited society's collective obsession with fame like no artist before or after him. The exhibition celebrates the Mao suite, an anonymous gift to the CMA of the complete set of 10 silkscreens Warhol created in 1972 of Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party of China (1949-1976).
“The CMA is very grateful for the generous gift of Warhol’s complete Mao suite to our collection by an anonymous donor,” says CMA Executive Director Karen Brosius. “In honor of the gift, we organized From Marilyn to Mao with this significant acquisition of 10 Maos as the centerpiece. The gift strengthens the museum’s growing collection and its concentration on modern and contemporary art. Our deep thanks to The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn. and to Bank of America for being major lenders to this exhibition and to BlueCross BlueShield of SC for their presenting sponsorship which is essential to sharing this remarkable selection of Warhol’s work with the Midlands.”
Warhol first gained success as a commercial illustrator before becoming a world-renowned artist. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s—concepts he continued to examine throughout his career. His art forms a mirror of the rise of commercialism and the cult of personality. He was not a judge of his subjects as much as a talented impresario who brought thousands of people into the pantheon of fame, if only for fifteen minutes. Some, such as Marilyn Monroe, got a few more minutes.
“Andy Warhol defines American popular culture like no other visual artist,” says CMA Chief Curator Will South. “Warhol’s subjects were taken right off the supermarket shelf—everyone knows his Campbell’s Soup cans. His subjects were also taken off the silver screen—he was obsessed with the famous and the idea of fame itself. Today, nearly four decades after his death, the art world is still obsessed with Warhol. His art demands the highest prices in the art market, while exhibitions of his work draw fans that were not even born when he was alive. Warhol’s central position begs an all important question: did he really love consumer goods and celebrities and find them all beautiful, or was his life’s work a critique of American materialism? From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces is a major exhibition focused on the artist’s celebrity subjects, and it is a great opportunity to think about (or rethink) what Warhol and his art mean in a world that arguably remains every bit as enthralled with pop culture as Andy was.”
In addition to Marilyn Monroe and Mao Zedong, the exhibition includes the faces of Judy Garland, Muhammad Ali, Sigmund Freud, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Albert Einstein, Annie Oakley, Theodore Roosevelt, Giorgio Armani, and Superman, as well as two self-portraits by Warhol, to name a few. The majority of the works outside of the CMA’s Mao suite are loaned by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Penn. The CMA has also secured a partnership loan with Bank of America to borrow seven pieces from their collection.
The run of the exhibition is filled with an array of related evening and daytime programs for adults and families.
The CMA also received a generous $25,000 Community Engagement Grant in support of the Warhol exhibition and related programming from the Central Carolina Community Foundation (CCCF). From Marilyn to Mao presents a unique opportunity for the community to engage in conversation and connect through a variety of interactive programs and experiences. The CMA has a longstanding partnership with the CCCF as both seek to improve the quality of life for Midlands residents and create a welcoming community.”
This exhibition is presented through the generosity of Presenting Sponsor: BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina; Gold Sponsors: Bank of America and U.S. Trust; Silver Sponsors: Columbia Marriott and Marcia and Allen Montgomery; Bronze Sponsors: Adams and Reese LLP, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin M. Gimarc, and Susan Thorpe and John Baynes; Friends of Warhol Sponsors: Dr. Suzan D. Boyd and Mr. M. Edward Sellers, Ms. Cheryl R. Holland and Mr. P. Douglas Quackenbush, Carol Saunders, and Dovetail Insurance ; Adopt-A-Famous Face Sponsor: AgFrist Farm Credit Bank; Supporting Sponsors: Tony and Sheila DiCioccio, Dr. and Mrs. W. John Bayard, Barbara and Roger Blau, Dr. and Mrs. Alan H. Brill, M.D., Robert L. and Mary Lou Burr, Mr. and Mrs. Theodore B. Dubose, Mr. and Mrs. David E. Dukes, Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Gilchrist, Mr. and Mrs. Robert H. Kennedy, Jr., Cathy and Michael Love, ReNewell, Inc. Fine Art Conservation, and Kirkland and James Smith; a generous grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation, and additional support provided by individual contributions and donors through Midlands Gives.
“BlueCross is pleased to be the presenting sponsor of From Marilyn to Mao: Andy Warhol’s Famous Faces,” says David Pankau, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. “We believe the arts are an essential part of a healthy and thriving community. Through our support of the Columbia Museum of Art, BlueCross helps foster inspiration and creativity in the region and is another way to let visitors know South Carolina has much to offer. “
With Sponge, Brush and Stencil: Bunzlauer Pottery from the Collection of the Columbia Museum of Art is a colorful exhibition of 43 pieces of pottery created between the world wars in an area around the town of Bunzlau in Eastern Germany (renamed Boleslawiec following the Polish annexation of the area in 1945). This popular style of pottery was hand-decorated with sponges, brushes, and stencils - intended for the average home, but celebrated for its colorful and inventive patterns. Artists drew inspiration from the art nouveau and art deco styles and decorated everyday wares like teapots, creamers, vases, and plates.
Discovered: The Bunzlauer Pottery of Eastern Germany
It is more than likely that most of the visitors to the Columbia Museum of Art this spring are having their first encounter with the Bunzlauer pottery of eastern Germany even though they might be quite familiar with its popular step-child, “Polish Pottery,” sold online today at innumerable websites or in specialty stores all across America. Despite being avidly collected throughout much of Europe and having been imported into the United States by the shipload during the 1920s and 1930s (thus accounting for its frequent appearance in antique stores, malls and fairs), Bunzlauer ware has been overlooked by American ceramic specialists and by all but a few knowledgeable collectors. In fact, no mention of this significant category of European ceramics is to be found in any English-language pottery reference book or collector’s guide and a piece of Bunzlauer ware has yet to surface on the Antiques Roadshow.
Bunzlauer pottery gets its name from the center of its production in the old Silesian town of Bunzlau. The clays around Bunzlau are particularly well-suited to the making of pottery and that essential craft has had a long history in the town that stretches back into medieval times. By the time that the German Kingdom of Prussia took control of Silesia early in the 18th century, Bunzlau was already known as a Toepferstadt (potters’ town) with the products of its several family-run potteries being marketed throughout central Europe. Under Prussian guidance, the production and distribution range of Bunzlauer ceramics was extended even further.
During the second half of the 18th century and throughout much of the next, most of the ware produced in the region consisted of utilitarian items suited to farm use, all of which was bathed in a chocolate-colored slip (liquefied clay) closely resembling the ubiquitous Albany Slip used by potters throughout the American South following the Civil War. The same clay slip also coated the surfaces of quaintly elegant beer and coffee pitchers that often were decorated with white paste appliques featuring a variety of religious, heraldic, patriotic, or neo-classical motifs.
By the end of the 19th century, however, area potters were experiencing the pressure of increasing industrialization and urbanization, as well as competition from mass-produced crockery, glass, and metal wares. The burgeoning middle class also sought escape from the drabness of lower-class existence. Potential Bunzlauer customers were demanding smaller, more decorative items to brighten the interiors of their homes
Consequently, in order to survive, the Silesian potters brought into production new lines of brightly-colored decorated ceramics intended for parlor and dining room settings. Just such a change in course was to occur a few years later in potteries in the American South. In Silesia, however, the transformation took place just as the Jugendstil (the German version of Art Nouveau) movement was enjoying its greatest popularity. Potters in Bunzlau quickly embraced Jugendstil principles, incorporating many of that style’s organic sensibilities into their decorative vocabulary. The designs sometimes were applied with a brush but usually were stamped on using cut sponges. The exotic, sponge stamped Pfauenauge (peacock’s eye) motif is the most celebrated of the Bunzlauer patterns derived from the Jugendstil aesthetic. The new, decorated pottery produced in Bunzlau and its Silesian environs was soon being echoed in the Lusatian pot shops in neighboring Saxony and, together, the potteries of this part of eastern Germany achieved enormous economic as well as aesthetic success.
Within the space of two decades the cluster of small, family-operated folk potteries in Bunzlau and the surrounding villages, yielded, for the most part, to large, commercial operations with scores of potters producing their wares in assembly line fashion. Among these modernized firms, those of Hugo Reinhold & Co., Julius Paul & Sohn, Edwin Werner, and Karl Werner stand out. The transformation was extraordinary but these factory-like operations continued to turn out traditional hand-turned ware while adding new designs, forms, production methods, and clay bodies to their output.
In the 1920s, perhaps influenced by the cutting edge artistic developments taking place at the Bauhaus in Dessau, the Pfauenauge designs of the Jugendstil made room for the geometric patterns associated with the international Art Deco movement, applied with the ‘modern’ tools of airbrush and stencil. The two approaches, one folk-based and the other studio -driven, co-existed until the advent of World War II.
When Silesia was ceded to Poland at the end of WWII in 1945, the region’s German-speaking population was expelled. The potters among the refugees reopened shops in West Germany where they resumed the production of Bunzlauer-style ceramics. The Lusatian potters of Saxony, whose pottery is so close in form and decoration to that of neighboring Silesia, found themselves part of the new communist nation of East Germany. A surprising number of family-owned firms survived to enjoy the personal and economic freedoms of a post-Soviet world. Meanwhile, the pot shops and ceramic factories of Boleslawiec (as Bunzlau now is called) stood abandoned only to be reopened circa 1960 but now staffed with Polish-speaking managers, designers, and decorators.
Thanks to gifts made in 2004 and, again, in 2009 by Dr. Charles and Ilona Mack, the CMA is now home to the largest and, probably, only public collection of German Bunzlauer-style pottery outside of Central Europe. With Sponge, Brush, and Stencil: Bunzlauer Pottery from the Collection of the Columbia Museum of Art is on view in Gallery 15 until July 19, 2015. It is a selection of 45 pieces indefinitely available for travel to additional venues throughout the United States. The CMA is justly proud of the role it has in familiarizing the American public with the significant place this handsome German pottery has in the story of European ceramics.
- Charles R. Mack is the author of European Art in the Columbia Museum of Art. He was a Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts and the William Joseph Todd Professor of the Italian Renaissance art history at the University of South Carolina for 35 years before retiring in 2005. He and his wife have been generous donors to the CMA's collection, including the remarkable gift of Bunzlauer pottery.
The Columbia Broadside Project pairs artists and poets from Columbia and throughout South Carolina who work together to create an original "broadside," comprised of an original work of art and an original poem. The goal is to strengthen the arts community by helping poets and artists meet their peers, share ideas, and create new works of art.
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