A new exhibition featuring nearly 200 bowls asks visitors to consider the ubiquitous bowl in new ways. The history of the bowl is the history of civilization, according to artist and Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) professor M.K. Guth. Yet because it holds cereal, soup, tea, or even spare change, it becomes so familiar as to be overlooked.
The second in a new exhibition series, Object Focus, Object Focus: The Bowl is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland, OR, in partnership with PNCA.
Lucie Rie, untitled small pink bowl c. 1950
Through a variety of engaging activities, Object Focus: The Bowl invites the viewer to connect the work on display in the Museum with the bowl in his or her everyday life. The bowls on view range from the functional to the decorative, industrially produced to handmade, and span the globe geographically and culturally.
“I felt like the bowl needed some attention,” said director and chief curator of the exhibit Namita Gupta Wiggers. “I started talking with artists and craftsmen and designers and nothing had been done that focused on the actual crafting of the bowl. Just like a table or a chair, these are craft based objects.”
Kurt Weiser bowl c. 1977
Deyan Sudjic director at the Design Museum London, has written in The Language of Things that everyday objects like the table, chair, and lamp have been pulled into the realm of design to become the Noguchi Table, Eames Chair, and Ingo Maurer Lamp. And according to Wiggers, the bowl, perhaps too commonplace and familiar, has stubbornly refused to be co-opted in this way.
In Part One: Reflect + Respond, Wiggers has invited anthropologists, artists, poets, novelists and curators to write 500 words on a bowl of their choosing from the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition, the Museum also invites viewers to write their own 500-word pieces on the bowl in an effort to gather 50,000 words by August.
Students from PNCA’s BFA in Illustration program will be contributing works on the bowl, and visitors are invited to contribute drawings to the exhibition as well.
Erik Gronborg, American Anatomy Chart c. 1967
The second part of the exhibition, Part Two: Engage + Use, explores the social role of the bowl through artist projects, performances, a symposium, through contributions by the region’s chefs and a project in partnership with Portland restaurants.
Ayumi Horie created a bowl lending library that will allow visitors to handle handcrafted bowls in the museum and borrow objects to be used at home. For his project, Bowls Around Town, Michael Strand has created traveling trunks that contain a ceramic bowl, digital camera, and recipe book to circulate among some of Portland’s communities that come together around mealtimes.
Area chefs, cookbook authors, bakers and candymakers will make bowl selections and offer recipes at the Chefs’ Table. In addition, there will be a reprisal of Transference by Andy Paiko and Ethan Rose, as well as a series of performances by Craft Mystery Cult. Finally, there will be a symposium on Craft and Social Practice featuring some of the artists featured in Object Focus: The Bowl, planned in conjunction with Portland State University’s Open Engagement Conference.
Part one of the exhibit will be on display through August 3 and part two runs through September 21.