In 2011 Meulensteen presented The Black Works 1998-2005, an exhibition of Richard De Vore’s minimal and monumental black vessels. Made near the end of the artist’s life, these works exemplify the great focus and refinement for which the artist is known. Stark and commanding from a distance, the seductive surfaces of De Vore’s black vessels pull in the viewer to reveal a characteristically subtle handling of form. Building up layer upon layer of black glaze and using multiple firings, De Vore achieved unusual depth of color, giving the pieces a uniquely contemplative sensibility. Each vessel balances decay and rebirth through composition, surface, and texture. De Vore’s vessels are imbued with a complex emotional content that transcends the austerity of his means. Though they adhere to a general framework, the specifics of each pot announce themselves resolutely. The folds and pocks of his surfaces beckon the hand as well as the eye. To say they are beautiful begs qualification: for De Vore, beauty was itself inseparable from one’s perception of, and yearning for the beautiful. And as such, beauty is implicated in its opposite. It is not a conceived ideal, but an experience of nothing less than “the totality of humanness—a recognition and acceptance of life’s conceptual and sensual beauty coupled with its infinite mixtures of requisite tensions.” Year after year De Vore worked obsessively, prodigiously producing and mercilessly destroying so that his every exhibition was finely calibrated and only the most exceptional works left the studio. He strove to create an immediate association between his pots and the body, wanting the viewer’s response to include the remembered sensation of feeling their own body or that of someone else. The sense of poetry that resonates through De Vore’s work was apparent as well in the way he spoke and wrote about it: “A pot (as a subject matter) is a common, familiar and fundamental image, but open to metaphoric treatment. I want pots that relate an engagement with life more than an encounter with art—an objectification of a perception/feeling that is focused, concentrated and intimatelyphysical— #1107, 2005, stoneware, 20 ¾” x 12 ¾” x 11” that attempts no ideal—that is a reconciliation with the reality of ambiguity that offers solace in the recognition of the real. And I want beauty. Not as a ploy or decoy but rather as an endemic aspect of meaning. I want it, but I can’t will it. It manifests itself through the process of contextual quest.” Richard De Vore (1933-2006) has been the subject of numerous exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. In 2008 the Cranbrook Art Museum hosted Richard Devore: Retrospective and ‘Last Works,’ which was accompanied by a monograph edited by Gregory Wittkopp and Emily Zilber. De Vore’s work is represented in major museum collections throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Stedelijk Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, the de Young Museum, and the High Museum of Art. A recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships (1976, 1980, 1986) he was named American Craft Council Fellow in 1987. De Vore attended the University of Toledo as an undergraduate and later received his MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1957. At Cranbrook he studied with Maijia Grotell, who later chose him to succeed her as head of the school’s ceramics department, a position he held from 1966 to 1978. Before retiring from teaching, he was a professor of art at Colorado Sate University from 1978 to 2004.
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