In March 2019, we expect an invasion—an invasion of a beautiful sort. The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) will hold its annual conference, Claytopia, in Minneapolis from March 27 through 30. Several thousand ceramic artists will descend on us during that time, and at WAM we will be ready. Ceramic artist Randy Johnston came to WAM with an idea for a way to welcome NCECA conference attendees: a new ceramics exhibit in our Leo and Doris…
Curated by ceramic artist Randy Johnston, The Persistence of Mingei: Influence through Four Generations of Ceramic Artists highlights the enduring Mingei ceramic tradition in Minnesota, drawing on the strength of WAM’s collection, with additional important pieces lent by collectors and artists. It also pays homage to University of Minnesota Regents Professor and artist Warren MacKenzie, who brought Mingei to the Upper Midwest, and honors his predecessors, students, and colleagues. A fully illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibit.
The word mingei, meaning art of the people, was coined by a Japanese philosopher in the early 1920s. His ideas started a movement in Japan that challenged society’s narrow definition of art by focusing on everyday objects created by average people. It can be seen as a response to Japan’s rapid industrialization as it elevated objects made by the hands of individual craftspeople, rather than produced in a factory.
A similar process of industrialization led to the Arts and Crafts movement in England, which was meant to preserve the traditions of handmade functional objects. Bernard Leach, an English ceramic artist, brought the Mingei movement to England at his pottery in rural St. Ives, England, which he established with Japanese potter Shōji Hamada in 1920.
The Mingei movement came to Minnesota through Warren MacKenzie. He and his wife Alixandra were Leach’s first American apprentices. The MacKenzies came to the University of Minnesota in 1953, fresh from their apprenticeships at St. Ives. Warren influenced thousands of students through his thirty-seven years teaching at the University and at workshops internationally.
SHE/HER/HERSELF: Four Generations of Women and the Mingei Influence | March 27 | To view the video from SHE/HER/HERSELF, visit z.umn.edu/SheHerHerselfVideo
Images (L to R): Shoji Hamada, no title, 1952, glazed earthenware. Gift of the Harlan Boos Foundation for the Arts; Warren MacKenzie, not title, 1989, glazed stonware. Gift of Nancy and Warren MacKenzie.; Bernard Leach, no title, 1956 glazed porcelain. Gift of Nancy and Warren MacKenzie.; Warren MacKenzie, no title, 1989, glazed stoneware. Gift of Nancy and Warren MacKenzie.