Published: July 20, 2021
NEW YORK CITY – Robert A. Ellison Jr, a storied collector of ceramics whose gifts of more than 600 works spanning centuries helped transform the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died on July 9. “Shapes from Out of Nowhere: Ceramics from the Robert A. Ellison Jr Collection” is currently on view at the museum through August 29.
Ellison was born in West Texas in 1932 and began collecting in New York in the 1960s. His collection comprised a wide variety of ceramics of all varieties, with a special focus on the modern and contemporary work on view in the Met exhibition.
“I think of ceramics as kind of in between painting and sculpture. It can employ some of both, with more flexible three-dimensional forms,” he told ARTnews in March, shortly after the Met show opened.
The show celebrates the gift of 125 modern and contemporary ceramics that Ellison made to the Met in honor of the museum’s 150th anniversary. The exhibition presents a selection of more than 75 works from his collection that charts the evolution of abstraction in clay from the second half of the Twentieth Century through the present.
The museum said, “Ellison’s extraordinary gift and this exhibition represent more than 40 years of collecting ceramics, a passion that eventually crystallized into the singular approach of nonrepresentational form in clay.”
Presented are works of 49 artists, including mid-Twentieth Century artists Axel Salto, Ken Price, Toshiko Takaezu, Katherine Choy, Peter Voulkos and Win Ng, alongside contemporary creations by Aneta Regel, Kathy Butterly, Syd Carpenter and Lynda Benglis. Included in the exhibition are eight works by the Nineteenth Century artist George Ohr, which attest to the “Mad Potter of Biloxi’s” radical vision and foreshadow the embrace of abstraction and nonrepresentational forms by artists in the 1950s and 1960s.
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