Published: November 16, 2000
CLEVELAND, OHIO – The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) will present “,” the first major exhibition devoted to the work of this internationally respected artist, through January 6, 2001. It is moreover the first time that CMA has staged a show devoted entirely of the work of a living Cleveland artist.
Schreckengost, now age 94, has received over 50 awards from the Cleveland Museum of Art and countless awards from other institutions. In 1958, he received with Frederick Law Olmstead, John Singer Sargent and Diego Rivera the highest award given by the American Institute of Architects – the Gold Medal. His industrial designs have touched the lives of millions of Americans, and his students of design have multiplied his influence even further.
The exhibition was conceived by Dr Henry Adams, CMA’s curator of American paintings, with collaboration by Henry Hawley, CMA’s curator of Renaissance and later decorative arts and sculpture.
Schreckengost is the last major surviving figure from the first age of industrial design – a contemporary of Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes and Walter Dorwin Teague. During a professional career that encompasses more than three-quarters of a century, he has touched on almost every field of art and design. Remarkably, he continues to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Art, whose nationally-known design program he started in 1932. The “Jazz Bowl,” which he designed for Eleanor Roosevelt in 1930, is an object considered to capture most perfectly American Art Deco.
More than 150 works will be shown in the exhibition, providing the first full-scale overview of Schreckengost’s career. About half of those works are ceramics, including several types of vessels and sculptures ranging from stylized animals to African-American musicians to satirized political figures. The other half of the show is made up of examples of the artist’s industrial design work, including bicycles, pedal cars, dinnerware and lawn furniture.
Many objects that are too large to show in the galleries – the first cab-over-engine truck, a printing press and monumental sculptures, or others that are no longer extant, such as theatre sets and costume designs – will be represented in drawings, photographs and advertisements. A number of his watercolors will also be on view.
The son of a commercial potter in Sebring, Ohio, Schreckengost learned the craft of sculpting in clay from his father. In the mid-1920s, he enrolled at the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art, or CIA) to study cartoon making, but after seeing an exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art he changed his focus to ceramics. Upon graduation in 1929, he studied ceramics in Vienna, Austria, where he began to build a reputation, not only for his art, but also as a jazz saxophonist.
A year later, at the age of 25, he became the youngest faculty member at the CIA. In 1931, Schreckengost won the first of several awards for excellence in ceramics at the Cleveland Museum of Art and his works were shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and elsewhere.
By the mid-1930s, Schreckengost had begun to pursue his interest in industrial design. For American Limoges, he created the first modern mass-produced American dinnerware, called Americana. Along with engineer Ray Spiller, Schreckengost designed the first cab-over-engine truck for Cleveland’s White Motor Company. By the end of the decade, he had designed the first Mercury Bicycle for Murray, Ohio. In 1939, the bicycle and his “The Four Elements” in clay were displayed at the New York World’s Fair. That same year, his clay statuette of “The Dictator,” satirizing Hitler and Mussolini, stirred up a controversy at the Cleveland Museum of Art by offending then-director William Milliken (who had received a cultural award from the Italian dictator).
In the 1940s, Schreckengost’s designs for children’s pedal cars (as well as bicycles and toys) helped Murray, Ohio become the world’s largest manufacturer of pedal cars. His design and ceramic work was interrupted by World War II, when he was recruited by the Navy to develop a system for radar recognition that won him the Secretary of the Navy’s commendation.
After the war, Schreckengost resumed his industrial design career creating products for Murray, Sears, General Electric, Salem China Company and Harris Printing, among others. Approximately 100 million of his bicycles were manufactured by Murray, making it the largest bicycle-maker in the world. He retired from industrial design in 1972, but continues teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Exhibition hours at the museum are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesdays through Sundays, open Wednesday and Friday evenings until 9 pm; closed Mondays. For information, 216/421-7350.
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