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Howard Kottler

Biography to Display: 

1930Born Cleveland, Ohio

1989Died Seattle, Washington

EDUCATION

1952BA Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

1956MA Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

1957MFA Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

1964Ph.D. Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE

1961-1964Instructor, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

1964-1972Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

 

Howard Kottler is known as an innovator in his choice of subject matter and his use of commercially available porcelain blanks, ready-made molds, and decals. As a leader in the Seattle Funk movement, Kottler’s works in the early 1960s were hand-formed, organic sculptural shapes with rough surfaces made so by the use of organic materials that were consumed during the firing process. Additionally, his extensive research with Egyptian paste further reinforced the hand of the artist by revealing the marks of the artist’s fingers and tools. 

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Kottler became identified with the Pop Art movement as his work moved more toward questioning accepted standards as a vehicle for social commentary. The use of controversial subject matter for ceramic art was part of the shock effect of Pop Art’s rethinking of what was appropriate for an art object.

Having learned to use decals at the Arabia Factory in Finland (1957), he began using mass-produced porcelain blanks with commercial decals that he cut and altered for maximum effect. The use of these materials developed into a major body of work dealing with social and political as well as twisted art historical images. As an example of his decal work, his plate series, numbering more than 1000 variations, was radical on two fronts: Not only was the imagery confrontational, but also, was the unheard-of use of commercially-produced ceramics as a canvas for manufactured decals. Kottler used the juxtaposition of these products to highlight the moral and ethical conflicts inherent in the reality of the social and political issues of the day namely, Watergate and the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, his intent, in these works, was often misinterpreted as an affront to craftsmanship and the studio potter.  

His Grant Wood Ware Set (1972) pokes fun at the concept of luxury, revered historical icons, and the presentation of valued objects. Factory-produced porcelain plate blanks with applied altered commercially-produced decals slipped into seemingly precious leatherette storage sleeves and sold in faux wooden presentation boxes. A perfect rejection of the symbols of luxury and presentation. 

Other series were pots and vases that relied on imagery influenced by his love of the Art Deco movement, satirical presentations of objects trapped in the molds of their fabrication, and a series of self-portrait silhouettes using his infamous Fu Manchu mustache. Kottler’s ceramic art can be truly said to have set the stage for a new genre of in-your-face clay, a genre which is alive and well today.

The Marks Project would like to thank Judith Schwartz for contributing this essay, December 14, 2014.

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

Art Institute of Zanesville, Zanesville, Ohio

Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington

Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

C.M. Russell Museum, Great Falls, Montana

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York, New York

Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio

DePauw University Art Center, Greencastle, Indiana

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York

Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, OR

Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, Missouri

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LAMCA), Los Angeles, California

Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, California

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine

Syracuse University Art Galleries, Syracuse, New York

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Adlin, Jane. Contemporary Ceramics: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998.

Failing, Patricia. Howard Kottler: Face to Face. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1995.

Halper, Vicki. Look Alikes: The Decal Plates of Howard Kottler. Seattle, WA: Tacoma Art Museum, 2004.

Schwartz, Judith. "Howard Kottler: An Irresistibly Irreverent Iconoclast.” Ceramics: Art and Perception 22, (1995).

______________. Confrontational Ceramics. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.

 

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download
Source: Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download
Source: Marcia Rodell Gallery, Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California

 

Typical Marks

Back stamp mark is a decal in platinum used only on Howard’s plates,… those store bought decal manipulated plates are from ’65-through 80’s. His last name Kottler was carved into wet clay and his other back stamp H with a K crossed over —both of these were used interchangeably on all other works 57- to death in 89. (Judith Schwartz 12/13/2016)

1957-1989
1957-1989
1964
ca. 1965
1965-1980s
Tear
Date: 1964
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Raku Vase
Date: 1965
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Photo: John Polak
Raku Vase
Date: ca. 1965
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Raku
E John Bullard Collection
E John Bullard Collection
Blue Butterfly Lips
Date: 1966
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Pinched, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Royal Paisley Pot
Date: 1970
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Slab Built
Surface Technique: Glaze, Luster
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Message Gestures Pot
Date: 1970
Form: Pot
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze, Luster
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Inverted Neck Bottle-Corn Series
Date: ca. 1970
Form: Bottle
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collecton
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collecton
Photo: John Polak
Salad Bowl
Date: Ca. 1970
Form: Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
The Old Bag Next Door is Nuts
Date: 1977
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Double Identity
Date: 1987
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
American Supperware
Form: Plate
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Overglaze (On Glaze), Transfer or Decal Decorated
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Courtesy of Judith Schwartz
Peace March Plate
Form: Plate
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Glaze, Transfer or Decal Decorated
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archives, University of Southern California
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archives, University of Southern California
Ash Tray
Materials: Stoneware
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Maquette
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Unglazed
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Photo: John Polak
Cast Cat
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak

Citation: Schwartz, Judith. "The Marks Project." Last modified November 6, 2018. http://www.themarksproject.org:443/marks/kottler