Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Presents Contemporary Works in Clay from Kansas City Collection

Works of Art are Promised Gifts from Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz

Contemporary works in clay from the outstanding collection of Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz will be on view at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in an exhibition on view through April 10, 20115 in the Bloch Building. Collecting with Passion: Contemporary Ceramics from the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz Collection features works of art by such noted American artists as studio potter Ken Ferguson and sculptor Akio Takamori.

Each of the 17 works of art in the exhibition is among 24 that the Berkowitzes promised to the Museum in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Nelson-Atkins. The couple has served as an inspiration for other Kansas City collectors.

“This installation celebrates the generosity of Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz, and it illustrates their passion for collecting extraordinary contemporary ceramics,” said Catherine Futter, the Helen Jane and R. Hugh “Pat” Uhlmann curator of decorative arts. “We are honored to share with Museum visitors one of Kansas City’s great collections of ceramics.”

Among the artists are several who have ties to the Kansas City Art Institute, which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year. Three pieces in the exhibition are by Ken Ferguson (1928–2004), who was chairman of the KCAI ceramics department for 32 years. He constantly blurred the boundaries between traditional and contemporary, using functional forms such as teapots and jars to experiment with line, movement, free-flowing glazes and irregular shapes.

Another artist featured in the exhibition, Richard Notkin (b. 1948), is one of the most well-known graduates of the KCAI ceramics program. Using unglazed stoneware or Chinese Yixing wares, he creates small, provocative works that engage large ideas with force and humor.

Also featured in the exhibition is the artist Akio Takamori, who was born in Japan in 1950, but has spent more than half of his life in the United States, giving him a perspective of both an insider and outsider in Japanese and American cultures. He warps time and history to create his own global identity with his ceramics.

The exhibition also features a work by Peter Voulkos, described as a rule-breaking innovator and an unorthodox teacher in the field of ceramics. Voulkos was inspired by the spontaneity of Japanese ceramics and American Abstract Expressionist painting.

Other artists in the exhibition are Ruth Duckworth, Lydia Buzio, Richard DeVore, Ah Leon, Adrian Saxe, Kurt Weiser, Beatrice Wood and Ralph Bacerra.

Image: Akio Takamori, Japanese, b 1950. Kanzan from “The Laughing Monk” series, 2006. Stoneware with underglazes. Promised gift the the Lennie and Jerry Berkowitz collection in honor of the 75th anniversary of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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