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Tacoma Art Museum Presents the Work of Legendary Ceramist Howard Kottler

August 4, 2004
For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Chelsea Perry, Public Relations Assistant, 253.272.4258 ext. 3002, Cperry@TacomaArtMuseum.org

(Tacoma, WA) – Tacoma Art Museum opens Look Alikes: The Decal Plates of Howard Kottler, a nationally traveling exhibition of significant works by prominent American ceramist Howard Kottler, on September 4, 2004. This original body of work, which consists of 60 porcelain plates created by Kottler between the 1960s and 1980s, has never been analyzed as a whole until now. The exhibition, on view through December 12, 2004, illustrates the wit and irony of this notable Northwest artist whose works challenged conventional notions of gender, politics, religion, and art.

Kottler (1930 – 1989), a former University of Washington professor, is known for rejecting traditional studio ceramic practices that emphasized and valued hand-made objects. Contrary to the studio potters who wedged clay and calculated glazes for plate-making, Kottler created his works with mass-produced store-bought plates and commercial decals. The decals he chose included reproductions of well-known images such as Leonardo DaVinci’s The Last Supper and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. Kottler altered these images, often with political intent, by cutting and combining the decals and then affixing them to inexpensive white porcelain plates which he purchased in bulk.

Look Alikes presents a survey of Kottler’s decal plates that impart multiple messages and reflect the rebellious spirit of the time. For example, as a protest to the Vietnam War, Kottler cut and rearranged the American flag in Made in the U.S.A. In another instance, Kottler flaunted his gay identity by changing the male and female couple in Grant Wood’s 1930 painting American Gothic into identical males. The combination of Kottler’s nonconformist medium and sardonic messages implies a rejection of tradition and conventional social norms.

Vicki Halper, a nationally recognized independent curator and former Associate Curator of Modern Art at Seattle Art Museum is the guest curator for the exhibition. Halper selected an array of works from many private collections as well as Seattle Art Museum and The Museum of Art and Design in New York. Halper will discuss the wit, irony, appropriation, and gay cultural readings in Kottler’s plates at Tacoma Art Museum Sunday, September 12 at 2 pm. Look Alikes is sponsored by the Howard Kottler Testamentary Trust and includes a fully illustrated catalogue distributed nationally by University of Washington Press.

Look Alikes is part of Tacoma Art Museum’s Northwest Perspective series of regional one-person exhibitions. Before moving to its new building in May 2003, Tacoma Art Museum featured the 12th Street Series. Northwest Perspective is the continuation of that series in the new building and also includes a mid-career survey of works by Seattle artist Scott Fife, opening September 18, 2004 at Tacoma Art Museum.

Tacoma Art Museum’s mission is to connect people through art. The museum serves the diverse communities of the region through its collection, exhibitions, and learning programs, emphasizing art and artists from the Northwest. The museum’s five galleries display an array of top national shows, the best of Northwest art, creatively themed exhibitions, and historical retrospectives. In addition, there is an Education Wing for children, adults, and seniors with an art resource center, classroom, and studio for art making. Tacoma Art Museum is located in the downtown Cultural District, next to historic Union Station.

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