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HANS COPER: ARTIST PROJECT SEASON
at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education
June 6 – September 22, 2019


HANS COPER—LESS MEANS MORE features the sculptural work of Hans Coper, a radical Jewish artist of the mid-twentieth century who was at the vanguard of British studio ceramics, pushing the boundaries of clay and forms of abstraction in his work.

The exhibition presents forty-five works by Coper from the late 1950s until the late 1970s, drawn from an extensive collection of his work in England’s York Art Gallery, significant works from a Portland collection, and related examples of his work from California and Iowa. Coper’s works in the exhibition are presented as a “Gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art,” focusing on individual works and arrays of work, including his Ovoid, Spade, Thistle, and commanding Disc-shaped bottle on foot with indented front.

In pursuit of Bauhaus architect Mies van de Rohe’s maxim “less is more,” Coper maintained a minimal set of materials and methods in creating his work—clay as material, the wheel at the core of generating form and, at times, the assembling of two or more thrown shapes with metal pins or rods. The presence of each form—whether a four-inch beaker or the seven-foot candlesticks he created for Coventry Cathedral—simultaneously projects an inherent modesty and monumentality.

A focused selection of Lucie Rie’s bowls, vases, and pots demonstrate her modernist and functional approach, along with her exaggerated necks, and flared rims. She employed a wide range of surface treatments and glazes, including etched scraffito lines and thick glazes with a strong crackle. Rie also experimented with color—peacock blue, sage green, celadon and gold—to dramatic, yet controlled effect.

HANS COPER—LESS MEANS MORE leads us to think more broadly within a contemporary art context by including the work of minimalist artist, Dan Flavin, who was inspired by and collected work by Coper and Rie. In 1990, he created "untitled (to Hans Coper, master potter)," a series of nine all white neon light works, in addition to "untitled (to Lucie Rie, master potter)," a series of pink, yellow, and blue. Flavin’s work, "untitled (to Robert Ryman)" is on view.

This is the first exhibition of Hans Coper’s work on the west coast, following recent shows in New Zealand, Japan, and The Netherlands, and the first to take place in the US since the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1994 exhibition.


Zena Zezza wishes to thank John Shipley; Helen Walsh, Curator of Ceramics, York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery); the design and production team: Scott Ponik, Sam Orner, Azure Attoe and Hunter Parmentier. At OJMCHE, we thank Judy Margles, David Newman, Anne LeVant Prahl, Becca Biggs and the team.