Defying Gravity: The Fragmented Façades of Architectural Terra Cotta

Guest Curated by Anne Currier

October 09, 1997 - January 22, 1998

Once suspended above our heads, undaunted by forces of gravity and the elements, the objects for this exhibition were originally integrated into the overall designs of architectural façades. Now removed from their anchorages of mortar, bricks and steel, the terra cotta fragments are once again earthbound and can be viewed as ceramic sculptures. Isolated from their original environments, the fragments reveal individual qualities of detail, elegance, humor, simplicity and physical massiveness. Undoubtedly the work of artists/craftsmen, the power of these fragments to trigger and nurture the imagination remains potent.

Sources for the fragments include City College of New York, the New York City Subway System and New York University -- all in Manhattan -- and the Erasmus High School in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn.

The Museum and the faculty of the School of Art and Design are especially grateful to the Krouse family, owners of Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Inc., Orchard Park, New York, which restores and manufactures architectural terra cotta. The enthusiastic support and cooperation of Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Inc. have been invaluable; their generosity, commitment and willingness to contribute fragments, molds and newly restored pieces has made this exhibition possible.

In addition, we are pleased to announce that Susan Tunick will give a public lecture and slide presentation on Tuesday, October 28, 1997 at 4 p.m. in Holmes Auditorium. Susan is an artist and national spokesperson for the preservation of architectural terra cotta. She is president of The Friends of Terra Cotta, Inc., and author of numerous articles and essays on terra cotta. Her book Terra Cotta Skyline: New York's Architectural Ornament has recently been published by Princeton Architectural Press.

This special exhibition is guest curated by Anne Currier, Professor of Ceramic Art and Chair of the Division of Ceramic Art, New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University. Anne is a ceramic sculptor whose work has been acquired recently by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Terra Cotta Fragment
Terra cotta fragment from Erasmus High School, Brooklyn, NY; courtesy of Boston Valley Terra Cotta, Inc., Orchard Park, NY. Photo: Brian Oglesbee.