From the Melting Pot into the Fire: Contemporary Ceramics in Israel

Exhibition on view at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design February 14 – June 7, 2009

Powerful ceramic sculptures crafted by acclaimed Israeli artists will be on display at the Mint Museum of Craft + Design February 14 – June 7, 2009. The special exhibition From the Melting Pot into the Fire: Contemporary Ceramics in Israel will feature innovative ceramic works that explore issues of cultural identity and display a wide range of technical and philosophical approaches to this art form. Notably, the Mint Museum of Craft + Design will be the only United States venue for this special offering.

Raising questions about identity within an ancient land, but within the borders of a country created a scant 60 years ago, the exhibition’s artists grapple with issues of immigration, ethnicity, and a sense of place, be it the natural world or the built environment. Ranging from hand-built pieces to wheel-thrown and cast objects, the works feature a diverse array of textures, colors and forms. Surfaces are unglazed or glazed, colorful or subdued, or mixed with other materials or technologies.

From poignant to witty, all of the exhibition’s works have stories to tell. In Sabras in a Tin Can by Zipi Geva, the artist playfully reflects on cultural identity in his work’s title. Sabras are the fruit of the prickly-pear cactus that grow throughout Israel, but an Israeli native is also known in the country’s vernacular as a sabra, which refers to a person who is sweet on the inside, but prickly on the outside.

Artist Yael Novak, co-organizer of the exhibition, said, “Israeli ceramic art today illustrates a diversity and intricacy that derives from a multitude of cultural influences characteristic of immigrant societies.” Indeed, people from all over the globe continue to immigrate to Israel, and the artists among them have created eloquent expressions of life in their adopted country in From the Melting Pot into the Fire.

Just as wine makers speak of terroir, or the taste of place that is evident in great wines, works of art and architecture can reflect particular geography, climate, history and traditions, conveying a distinctive sense of place. As a historical crossroads and a relatively new nation comprised of immigrants, Israel has forged a unique identity. Artists represented in the exhibition explore their personal identities, as well as connections to their homeland through their work in clay. Public educational programs will use the exhibition as a catalyst to explore this unique Israeli sense of place as it is manifested in contemporary art, film, architecture and literature.