Twenty ambitious and energetic artists selected by co-curators Linda Ganstrom and Mel Buchanan transform the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Baumgartner Galleria with extraordinary ceramic art, much of it created specifically for Flow: The 2014 NCECA Ceramic Arts Invitational on view February 22 through March 23, 2014.
With the emphasis placed on material in the NCECA conference theme of Material World, a large number of works in Flow focus on how various physical elements literally move and behave. A beloved and inherently unique quality of glazed ceramics is the interaction of time, heat and materials to produce glaze flow.
Multi-faceted, the theme of Flow is broad, layered and nuanced. The museum as site of collecting and communicating cultural values through artists objects from the material world is a type of stream, a conduit that allows objects from the past and across the world to connect in sometimes unexpected ways that impact the present and influence the future. Inspiration or reference to collected materials or decorative objects figure widely in Flow. Flow also refers to the movement of materials or time. As a state of mind, flow is a pleasurable state of intense focus often experienced by artists. As a design element or aesthetic, flow embodies fluid movement and subtle shifts. Clay contains water. In its wet or plastic states, the fluidity of clay’s material property embodies flow as it responds to the artist’s touch. Each of the accomplished and innovative artists exhibiting in Flow connects to theme on numerous levels.
Designed to evoke a conscious awareness of the flow of water in its various states, the Baumgartner Galleria’s arching wall of windows connects the viewer to nature through a dramatic view of Lake Michigan. Santiago Calatrava’s inspired architecture embraces the concept of the museum as a cathedral of culture, an inspiring setting for reflection, contemplation, insight, even celebration. Re-imagining the functions of the museum to more fully integrate community, the Milwaukee Art Museum invites their patrons to celebrate life in unique and artistic spaces such as the Baumgartner Galleria, demanding new approaches to the installation and presentation of art in the middle of a sometimes active and interactive social setting. Functioning as a conduit from the grandeur of Windhover Hall to the more traditional galleries displaying the historic collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Baumgartner Galleria’s tunnel of light encourages the transition from our more mundane reality into the world of art. Intervening and confronting the viewer with artifacts and objects connecting us to the cultures of the past, nature and life, Flow invites one to pause, contemplate and experience the Material World through engaging ceramic works of art.
I extend an invitation to join me in the vast and ethereal setting of the Baumgartner Galleria in the Milwaukee Art Museum. A powerful physical presence, its light-filled, almost otherworldly, vast space commands attention and emotional response.