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For Immediate Release: January 5, 2006

Contacts: Lynette Nyman, P.R. Manager, (612) 870-3173; Tammy Pleshek, P.R. Specialist, (612) 870-3171; Anne-Marie Wagener, Director of External Affairs, (612) 870-3280

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“Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” Will Showcase More Than 80 Works by
One of the World’s Most Influential Living Ceramic Sculptors

Minneapolis, MN, January 5, 2006– The Minneapolis Institute of Art will present a retrospective exhibition on acclaimed ceramic artist Ruth Duckworth from February 5 through April 16, 2006. Duckworth is one of the world’s foremost ceramic sculptors and has played an important role in the continuation of the modernist tradition with works expressing refinement, passion, and authority. The exhibition “Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” will explore the full range of Duckworth’s remarkable creative life, featuring eighty-three small- and large-scale works, along with original artist’s maquettes and photographs of monumental site-specific sculptures and ceramic murals. After its presentation at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, the exhibition will go on to the Long Beach Museum of Art (May 4–July 2, 2006) and the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (Sept. 1, 2006–Jan. 15, 2007).

Ruth Duckworth, 87, is internationally known for her visionary work and is one of the leading figures in the field of ceramic arts. She still works full time in her Chicago studio, continuing to create new and unexpected forms and objects. “Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” will examine almost fifty years of the artist’s achievements in all media, including recent bronze sculptures and ceramic wall murals, as well as early bronze castings and stone carvings that have never before been exhibited.

Ruth Duckworth has inspired generations of artists and designers with the power of her poetic forms. This retrospective surveys the variety of Duckworth’s work, demonstrating her deep connections to nature, culture, and the human figure, and provides an extraordinary opportunity to explore links between Duckworth’s groundbreaking minimalist sculptures and major currents in twentieth-century modernism.

About Ruth Duckworth
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1919, Ruth Duckworth moved to England as an émigré in 1936, during the rise of Nazi power. There she studied art—at Liverpool School of Art, Hammersmith School of Art, and Central School of Arts & Crafts in London—and had her first exhibitions. In 1964, she accepted a one-year teaching appointment to the University of Chicago, but continued in this faculty post for thirteen years, and has lived since in the United States.
Duckworth’s work is represented in the collections of many esteemed international art museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum für Modern Keramik, Dudelsheim, Germany; National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She also has received many honors, including a 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Museum of Women in the Arts and a 1996 Gold Medal from the National Society of Arts and Letters. The Museum of Arts & Design named her a Visionary! in 2003.
One of Duckworth’s notable triumphs is her success in sculpting with porcelain, something attempted by few clay artists because of its unforgiving nature for manipulations. She characterizes it as “a very temperamental material. I’m constantly fighting it. It wants to lie down; you want it to stand up. I have to make it do what it doesn’t want to do. But there’s no other material that so effectively communicates both fragility and strength.” A counterpoint to her massive and earthy stoneware murals and her large, coiled stoneware sculptures, Duckworth’s delicate porcelain tabletop pieces and murals shatter the expectations of the viewer, who is accustomed to seeing the materials in functional wares such as plates, cups, and bowls. In fact, Duckworth’s celebrated cup-and-blade series, executed over the last twenty-five years, plays with these expectations. Slim porcelain blades puncture unglazed bowls and spheres, rendering them functionless while creating interesting juxtapositions in form.

Duckworth has continued to produce both freestanding and wall-mounted ceramic sculptures, defining her as one of the most important living artists working in the medium. Examination of her work produced during the last four decades reveals the multitude of influences she draws upon: the natural world, ancient cultures, and abstraction of the human figure. Recent works, including a bronze seated male and female (2002), reveal homage to ancient Egyptian sculpture and to British sculptor Henry Moore (1898–1986), who encouraged Duckworth in her pursuit of abstract sculpture. She admires both Isamu Noguchi (1904–88) and Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957), two of the most significant abstract sculptors of the twentieth century. The minimalist tradition favored by these sculptures is evident in Duckworth’s 1991 stoneware wall sculpture, which stacks three arched forms crafted meticulously from horizontal stoneware bands.

About the Exhibition
“Ruth Duckworth, Modernist Sculptor” is organized in multiple sections, linked by chronology and theme. The exhibition’s first section features Duckworth’s early works from her initial years as a studio artist living in London. A progression of her vanguard vessels and wall reliefs show her moving away from functionalism to explore purely sculptural qualities.

The second section contains Duckworth’s abstracted figurative works, free-standing ceramic sculptures, and wall panels. The exhibition places Duckworth’s work in context with other Modernist sculptors of her era, and explains the artist’s appreciation of Bronze Age implements and Cycladic figures from ancient Greece from which she draws inspiration to create her signature figurative and abstract sculptures.

The final section presents a stunning selection of the artist’s mature work: pure, elegantly refined, yet vital pieces that, as critic Peter Lane put it, “distill the very essence of morphological experience and sensation.” These masterworks of timeless beauty make clear Ruth Duckworth’s integrity as an artist and confirm her position as one of the quintessential modern sculptors of our time. The exhibition includes a compelling, independently produced video, Ruth Duckworth: A Life in Clay.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 160-page illustrated catalogue that places Duckworth and her eloquent, authoritative work squarely within the modernist movement and the world of émigré artists. The catalogue contains a critical analysis of Duckworth’s creative output over the last fifty years by co-curator Jo Lauria, a biographical essay by the British writer Tony Birks, and an introduction by Martin Puryear.

Opening day programming features an artist lecture with Duckworth on Sunday, February 5 at 2 p.m. The lecture is free. Call (612) 870-6323 for reservations.

This exhibition is organized by curators Thea Burger and Jo Lauria for Art Options Foundation.

This exhibition and related programs are sponsored by Regis Foundation and Haworth Marketing & Media.

About The Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art, home to one of the finest encyclopedic art collections in the country, houses approximately 100,000 works of art representing more than 5,000 years of world history. Highlights of the permanent collection include European masterworks by Rembrandt van Rijn, Nicolas Poussin, and Vincent Van Gogh, as well as internationally significant collections of Asian art, decorative arts, Modernism, photographs, and African and Native American art.

General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m-5 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Closed Monday. For additional information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit

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