Karen Karnes and Mark Shapiro. Collaboration /co / elaboration. May 18, 2013 – June 16, 2013 at Lacoste Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts. Ceramic Art.
Ms. Karnes, a grande dame of American ceramics, was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1925 and received her BA from Brooklyn College. Ms. Karnes was part of the first wave of artists working in ceramics after WWII and was prominent in each step of the way for this field. Ms. Karnes learned to throw pots in Italy where her work was featured in Gio Ponti’s magazine Domus. She studied with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College where she was friends with John Cage and Merce Cunningham. She received a fellowship to study at Alfred University from which she left to return to Black Mountain as potter in residence; there she hosted historic seminars such as the one with Peter Voulkos, Warren MacKenzie, Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach. She went on to be a founding member of the Gate Hill Cooperative, Stony Point NY whose members included John Cage and M.C. Richards. She is the co-founder and curator for the Old Church Cultural Center (OCCC) Annual Pottery Show from 1974 to the present and has mentored many young artists.
Karnes has been in seminal exhibitions at major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in the “The Object Transformed”; the Renwick, Smithsonian in “Object USA” and the Whitney in “High Styles: American Design since 1900”. Ms. Karnes’ work was prominent in the Ceramic Nationals, sponsored by the Everson Museum, Syracuse; she won top prizes there. Premier galleries in the US have represented her, including Hadler/Rodriquez (New York/Houston), Joanne Rapp Gallery (Scottsdale, Arizona), and Garth Clark Gallery (New York NY). In addition she has shown with Ferrin Gallery (Lenox MA) and Galerie Besson (London, England). Karnes is currently represented by Lacoste Gallery (Concord MA). A select list of public collections in which her work is found include the Currier Museum of Art (Manchester NH), the Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse NY), LACMA (Los Angeles CA), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston MA) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (London England).
This exhibition came about as Ms. Karnes wanted to show historic pieces from her recent Retrospective A Chosen Path which began at Arizona State University in 2011. It traveled for two years showing at four additional museums, completing in the fall of 2013. Mark Shapiro was responsible for Ms. Karnes having the retrospective A Chosen Path and was the editor of the book written to underscore it.
Mark Shapiro works western Massachusetts. He is frequent workshop leader, lecturer, panelist, curator, writer, and mentor to a half dozen former apprentices. His interviews of Karen Karnes, Michael Simon, and Paulus Berensohn are in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution and he is editor of A Chosen Path: the Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes (University of North Carolina Press 2010) that accompanied her traveling retrospective. His own work was featured in the 4th Biennale in Icheon, Korea, and is in many public collections including the Smithsonian Institution, the Mint Museum (NC), the Newark Museum (NJ), the International Museum of Ceramic Art, (Alfred, NY) and the Racine Art Museum and the Currier Museum (NH). He is represented by Lacoste Gallery and Ferrin Gallery.
Ms. Karnes asked that her work be shown with that of Mark Shapiro in tribute to their collaborations. This is their second joint exhibition at Lacoste Gallery. This exhibition features work representative of Ms. Karnes complete career going back to the early pieces made in Italy and at Alfred University, as well as work made over the last twenty years of her career. In addition, the show includes recent vessels by Mr. Shapiro fired with soda in his wood-burning kiln and seven pieces made in collaboration between the two.
Lacoste Gallery 25 Main St. Concord, MA 01742
“It was an honor to be asked to represent Ms. Karnes a few years ago, as it was to be chosen to do this exhibition. Karen is one of the rock stars of ceramics with a career that touches all the high points of her field. We have represented Mr. Shapiro for over 15 years. He has been instrumental in the focus of my gallery. We are very pleased to celebrate the span of these two great careers.” Lucy Lacoste.
Foreword: Karen Karnes, Modernist. Essay By Garth Clark from Chosen Path, The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes. Edited by Mark Shapiro.
“Karnes began her career as a modernist, experimenting with biomorphism or “free form” as it was known if the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. She has never been a captive of their ceramics community alone and from 1952 to 1979 lived in the legendary arts community’s, Black Mountain College and the Gate Hill community, with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Robert Raunschenberg, and Jack Tworkov, among other. If anything in common with these groundbreaking artists, a restless reinventing avant-garde spirit drives her ceramics.
This searching quality has won her many collectors, both of crafts and of fine arts, the later drawn by the toughness and purity of her aesthetic and its modern inspiration. One find as much of her work in the down town lofts of Manhattan’s art community as in the Middle America’s craft collections. When Isamu Noguchi organized his museum and sculpture garden in Queens, New York, the only artist other than himself who’s work he included was Karnes (represented by a pair of large garden seats that he had acquired from her in the late 1960’s” Garth Clark.