Survey of Montana ceramics opens at MMAC

Montana Museum of Art & Culture exhibits focus on ceramics, Eastern European prints

Art Beat
MMAC: Albin Brunovsky, "Lady with a Hat II (Mirror)"
Albin Brunovsky’s “Lady with a Hat II (Mirror)” is part of an exhibit of Eastern European prints at MMAC.Photo © Albin Brunovsky

Two new exhibits open Jan. 11 at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture (MMAC) in Missoula: “Decades: Ceramics from the Permanent Collection” and “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.”

“Decades” surveys the Permanent Collection from the beginning of the American ceramics movement all the way up to the present moment, examining formal and thematic developments since its onset in the mid-1940s. Beginning with collaborations by Peter and Henry Meloy and early works by Peter Voulkos and Branson Stevenson, the show highlights work that broke with clay’s decorative and utilitarian heritage to usher in what we now know as contemporary ceramics.

In the subsequent decades, artists like Frances Senska, Tony Hepburn, and Ken Little turned toward a sculptural understanding of clay, guided more by the physical properties of the medium than principles of quality manufacture. These artists laid the groundwork for the more whimsical work produced by artists in the 1980s, such as Tom Rippon and Douglas Baldwin. Examples of their work appear alongside ceramics by Josh DeWeese, David Shaner, and Kurt Weiser.

More contemporary trends, like the emergence of personal narrative and mythology, by artists defining the field today will also be on display. These artists include current UM ceramics faculty Trey Hill and Beth Lo, as well as recent graduates Crista Ann Ames, Megan Bogonovich, Alex Kraft, Ryan Mitchell, and Sue Tirrell.

This exhibition is co-curated by UM Professor of Ceramics and MMAC Curator of Art Jeremy Canwell.

“Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode” presents graphic works by Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak and Slovenian artists, offering an extraordinary glimpse into creativity in the shadow of Soviet communism. From Khrushchev’s mid-1950s cultural “Thaw” to the Prague Spring, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath, Eastern European artists used the printed form to recover their national traditions and critique the totalitarian culture that had eclipsed them. Over and above the historical record it presents, this exhibition is a veritable survey of technical mastery by some of the region’s most accomplished printmakers.

MMAC Exhibit Highlights

  • Opening reception, 5-7 p.m. Jan. 11 in the PARTV Center Lobby and Meloy and Meloy and Paxson Galleries,
  • Ceramics demonstration and gallery tour of “Decades,” 2-5:30 p.m. March 6, with guest artists MSU Associate Professor of Art Josh DeWeese, UM Associate Professor of Art Trey Hill and Clay Studio of Missoula Executive Director Shalene Valenzuela offering ceramic demonstrations in the Masquer Theatre followed by a gallery tour from 5-5:30 p.m. with co-curators UM Professor of Art Julia Galloway and MMAC Curator of Art Jeremy Canwell.
  • Two gallery walks for the exhibit of Eastern European prints: 5:15 p.m. April 5, with curator Jeremy Canwell; and 5:15 p.m. April 12, with printmaker and UM Art Professor Jim Bailey (which includes a tour of the UM Print Shop).
  • Eastern European Film Series at the Roxy Theatre, 7 p.m. Mondays, Jan. 22, Feb. 12, and March 5, 12 and 19.

For more information, visit or call 406- 243-2019.