1857-1918 (USA) 06.02.20 - 09.02.20


ARTWORKS                                             EXHIBITIONS 
BIOGRAPHY                                            BIBLIOGRAPHY


In the late 1800s, self-taught potter GEORGE E OHR revolutionised pottery.

From his home in coastal Mississippi, this eldest son of Alsatian immigrants developed an all-consuming practice and persona. OHR’s clay pots were precise and prolific. Their radical shapes and modern glazes marked an important shift in three-dimensional vessel making. As a body of work, they challenged not only the art establishment, but the cultural conventions of their day.

Yet OHR’s proto-abstract experiments proved too unpalatable for local taste. Throughout his lifetime, the entrepreneurial Mad Potter of Biloxi was ignored and his legacy unrecorded in the history of American art.

That changed seventy years later when the oeuvre was rediscovered by his descendants. Heralded as an unsung pioneer of modernist making, OHR was soon being collected and championed by David Whitney, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The latter was so enamored of the delicacy of OHR’s material form, he repeatedly depicted the work in his paintings.

Posthumously embraced by his peers, OHR and his pots now found their place in the Western canon. They reached a wide audience through the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Museum. Frank Gehry designed a museum in OHR’s hometown of Biloxi in Mississippi. More recently, over thirty works were exhibited as part of a contemporary installation at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh in 2013.

OHR invented his own brand of beauty, one so innately modern that it’s easy to understand why he wasn’t more appreciated in his own time. His liberations of color and form move beyond Art Nouveau and the Arts and Crafts Movement - with which his work has obvious links - and points toward the present. In particular, his exquisite, constantly shifting balances of randomness and control convey a kind of three-dimensional Automatism that presages ideas basic to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. And in a way that seems both modern and close to the experience of painting, OHR invites the viewer to rehearse the pleasure and release he felt in making his pots.
Roberta Smith, New York Times