The Italian Almanac


Ceramic Revival

A selection of some of the finest examples of 20th-century Italian ceramic art has gone on show in London. The exhibition, 'Terra Incognita: Italy's Ceramic Revival', features around 50 key works by leading ceramicists and sculptors, including several pieces by pioneering abstract artist Lucio Fontana.

The works, drawn from the prestigious Bernd and Eva Hockemeyer collection, chart over six decades of ceramics through sculptures, panels, vases and plates. The exhibit explores the development of ceramic art from the 1920s to the 1980s, starting with pieces by leading Italian sculptors, Marino Marini and Arturo Marini, and contrasting these with works from the same period by ceramicist Pietro Melandri.

There are also a number of works by Fontana, spanning three decades of his career. The exhibit includes some of early figurative and neo-baroque sculptures in terracotta and maiolica from the 1930s, as well as a selection of the ceramic forerunners of the Concetti Spaziali (Spatial Concepts) canvases for which he is most famous.

The explosion in post-war experimentation is explored through the works of sculptors Leoncillo Leonardi and Fausto Melotti. This is contrasted with parallel developments in ceramic convention, with new forms of decoration on classical vase and plate designs examined through pieces by ceramicists such as Guido Gambone and Leandro Lega.

''Italians have clay in their blood, and have always worked it,'' commented exhibit curator Lisa Hockemeyer, an art and design historian, daughter of the collectors and long-time resident of Milan. ''However, Italy entered a golden age between the two world wars, when great artists started to use this basic material and entered into a fruitful exchange with ceramic masters, who shared their techniques and then became artists in their own right''.

Although many of the award-winning pieces have gone on individual display before, this is the first time so many have been exhibited in a single location.