Ruth Duckworth at the MIA
Don’t know what to do or where to go? The gallery listing page in the Pulse always has plenty of suggestions, and here is a new one: Why not escape the subzero temperatures of a suddenly vintage Minnesota February in the surprisingly cozy confines of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts? While pursuing the vast collections of ancient Chinese silverware or Dale Chihuly’s glass chandelier, be certain to devote a meaningful part of your visit to the current exhibition featuring modernist sculptor Ruth Duckworth.
While it may seem unfair to devote media attention to a museum of such visibility and resource as the MIA when so many important but smaller galleries featuring local and regional artists vie for publicity, Duckworth’s exhibit gets to the source material that undoubtedly has served as inspiration for ceramicists, sculptors and artists all over the world.
At 86 years old and still counting, Duckworth is as prolific as ever. It seems that her career has never suffered from a period of artist’s block. She is a modern master–every aspect of her work has been considered and refined by the artist’s intention. Duckworth controls the porcelain, clay and stoneware in the same fashion that the moon commands the tides. While time and changing styles are unkind to many artists, it seems safe to say Duckworth will never experience that backlash until our Earth is ruled by a race of non-human, art-hating sentient beings.
Singling out Duckworth’s individual pieces is a kind of challenge. The artist rarely names her works, and nearly every piece in the show is referred to only as “untitled” followed by the year of completion, with the exceptions being commissioned installations. The MIA doesn’t possess the actual installations but photographs of these and Duckworth’s maquettes of “ Clouds Over Lake Michigan,” “Earth Water, and Sky” and “The Creation” are represented. These murals are tremendous demonstrations of how vital every small piece of a large project is, and why the quality of the finished project depends on this fundamental integrity. Art is meant to be looked at and scoured over, especially when contained in the setting of a world-class museum.
I anticipate the day when we can look at the unknown artists currently growing and flourishing in the Twin Cities, and realize that some of these figures will someday become a part of an ever shifting and influential public history.
Duckworth’s show is a worthwhile visit, both for artists of any medium, and art lovers of any attention span. ||
Ruth Duckworth “Modern Sculptor” runs from February 5th – April 16th at the Target Gallery (2nd floor) of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2400 Third Avenue South. Minneapolis, MN 55404). Admission is free. Memberships to the MIA are available and donations are graciously accepted.