Monday, 16 August 2010

Marc Leuthold ceramics at the Daum Museum

The Daum Museum has been at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri, about an hour from Kansas City, since 2001. Despite its reputation for excellent collections and exhibitions, I could never remember to make a visit until we were on our way to St. Louis this past weekend. (Because of photography restrictions, I can only show the outside of the museum, but have made links to many of the works we saw.)

There we saw parts of the permanent collection and the remains of a lovely and engaging exhibition of ceramic sculpture by Marc Leuthold. The exhibition was scheduled to close in April but most of it was still on view in August. Of the large installation that had been the centerpiece of the exhibition we saw only the remains: a kind of mobile of white porcelain irregular discs installed in a large light-filled gallery with Coretta Scott King's recollection of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech stencilled in a single line of text completely around the wall. Photos of the complete installation are still at the Daum website accessed through Leuthold's website. I had never heard of this artist and find from the Daum website that the museum director was a student at the State University of New York at Potsdam, where Leuthold is an assistant professor. I have a soft spot for that place because some 33 years ago I declined to be an assistant professor of art history there, choosing to work at the Yale University Art Gallery instead. But I digress.

I was very much drawn to Leuthold's sculptures, particularly to the whole, broken, and partial disks that seemed to be made of thin leaves of porcelain but certainly were sliced rather than layered. The justapositions of the slices with the smooth centers or edges, of bulk vs. delicacy, and the polished or matte finishes of whole discs and partial discs, are both pleasing and calming. I want one. They encourage abstract contemplation at the same time their sensuality invites caressing. Other, smaller sculptures resembled flowers or appeared to consist of the slices piled together; these partially glazed and pale colored tangles also engaged  me.

The museum itself is a contemporary building with very nicely proportioned galleries with varied ceiling heights on three levels. Natural light fills the stairwell and filters into some of the galleries, in a good way. The purple Chihuly chandelier in the stairwell seems de rigeur for this part of the country (think they should trade it for the orange one at K-State). The permanent collection on display downstairs included most of the signature color field artists of the 1970s: Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, Friedel Dzubas, Gene Davis, Dan Christensen, Robert Goodnough, Walter Darby Bannard, and a gorgeously turquoise Helen Frankenthaler, Trespass, 1974. Additionally there were prints by Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Chuck Close, and Sol Lewitt. The museum collection via Dr. Daum  also focuses on ceramic sculpture and the permanent display included a Michael Lucero and a large Ron Nagle.

Works on view on the top floor included major artists, several of them from this area, with ceramic works by Jim Leedy, Ken Ferguson and Don Reitz and two dimensional works either made or donated by Kansas City area people. In a gallery adjacent to the museum a small exhibition of 8 works created with the use of computers also included some interesting regional artists - Jim Sajovic and Larry Thomas to name two - and had very clear and informative labels.

Outside the museum Tom and I were intrigued by a large ceramic sculpture by John Balistreri, several segments fired in and reflecting the shape and use of the anagama kiln, the huge wood-fired kilns used in some traditional Japanese and Korean ceramic firing.  Not only do the segments show the shape of the kiln and the colors of anagama-fired clay, but they also contained fragments of cups and bowls that might have been fired in such a large kiln.  We took several pictures.

Sunday, 15 August 2010


An underlying theme of our Europe trip became World War II and the Holocaust, independent of any plan we may have had. From the ballet in Prague of "Faust" set in Nazi Germany, to the rebuilt Dresden, to the depopulated ghettos in Prague and Krakow we kept being reminded of what had been done and suffered in this part of Europe. Of course the culmination was our day in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Oswiecim.

I decided that there's nothing I can add to the literature on Auschwitz based on a day there. So I thought I'd just post a few pictures and mention a couple of logistical aspects. Much helpful materials is on the Auschwitz website. Although visits to Auschwitz are free and it has been possible to make a self-guided tour, it is now required that visitors in the summer take the guided tours, a way of managing the crowds. We took an English-language tour. It was our first experience with the tour in where the guide speaks normally and you hear it on headphones. This was most effective, as you could hear her no matter where you were, although I got a bit confused when I was three rooms back. Because of the guided tour, we did not get to read many of the labels or enter all the buildings, which I only discovered on the website back home.

You don't go to Auschwitz and not Birkenau; they are different, and Birkenau is much bigger..

Work Makes you Free. The sign had been recently stolen and badly damaged, so this is a copy.

No man's land.

Sign outside a barrack.

We were surprised at how solid the buildings are.

We were not permitted to photograph inside buildings at Auschwitz. We saw the piles of hair, shoes, brushes, eyeglasses, prosthetics, suitcases, the insignia, prison garb, meals, torture cells. Photographs of prisoners on the interior building walls gave their name, date of entry and date of death. Generally prisoners survived about 3 months there. In the 1970s the Khmer Rouge similarly photographed the prisoners in their death camps in Cambodia.

Barracks - each bunk layer was intended to hold 6 people
Train tracks. You can barely see the camp entrance at the end of the tracks and the single boxcar on the siding where people were divided into slave laborers and those to be gassed.
Ruined barracks. Most of were torn down a long time ago, but the chimneys remain.

Entrance to the "dressing room" for the gas chamber/crematorium.
Ruin of gas chamber/crematorium'

Plan showing efficiency of gas chamber/crematorium
View of Birkenau from entrance watch tower.
View from watch tower of brick buidings.