Breaking with Tradition reflects the desire of ceramicists to experiment and depart from ceramics as purely functional objects. During the mid-to-late 20th century, ceramicists used a sculptural approach in their work instead of using traditional shapes. Free of the need to make useful or “utilitarian” objects, ceramicists could instead explore the properties of clay and the chemistry of glazes. While some used this new freedom from function to explore the possibilities of form, shape, and color, others ventured into figuration, narrative subject matter, and manipulation of historical and traditional forms. These objects demonstrate how ceramicists using a diversity of approaches, from playful to political, broke with tradition.
Image: John Woodward, American, b. 1950. "Garage," 1995–1996. Painted ceramic. 28 x 19 x 20 inches. Gift of Mary Mallery Davis, by exchange, 2016.14