Museum of Wisconsin Art Presents Gerit Grimm’s Fairytales:

by Jim Dittmann
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The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) will present the work of Madison-based ceramist Gerit Grimm in Gerit Grimm’s Fairytales: In A Time Neither Now Nor Then. Opening with a party on Saturday, October 7, this is the largest exhibition to date of the artist’s work.  Set within a dynamic installation that pays homage to her use of a pottery wheel, five life-sized figures will be joined by pieces from her Tree, Marketplace, Greek Mythology, and Biblical series. Grimm’s refined craftsmanship, vivid imagination, and monumental scale eerily suggest human figures frozen in time and place.

“Gerit Grimm is one of the most original sculptors working in ceramics today, taking traditional depictions and expectations of ceramic figurines and turning them on their head.” said MOWA Director of Collections and Exhibitions, Graeme Reid. “Masterfully crafted on her pottery wheel, with rich historical and personal inspiration, her sculptures tell tales of love, loss and temptation, in ways that are as engaging as they are spectacular. And this is what marks Grimm’s work as exceptional. It’s the expressiveness of her characters and the emotions they convey that are easily relatable to viewers.”

Grimm got her start in ceramics through a pottery apprenticeship in Bürgel, Germany, and then worked as a journeyman potter in Glashagen where she developed a solid skill set within very traditional parameters. Her early work paid homage to Meissen figurines, which are known for their colorful glazes. Grimm increasingly refused to be pigeonholed as a ceramist and she sought to break free of expectations of form, scale, and coloration, obliterating the line between traditional definitions of clay and sculpture.

In 2010, Grimm found a box of discarded clay she didn’t want to waste so she fired it in the kiln without glazing it. She fell in love with its subtle metallic bronze surface, which gave it an almost stone-like appearance. The thought of glazing became anathema as this new surface emphasized its sculptural qualities and conveyed an appearance of moments frozen in time. This was the turning point in her career and she’s never looked back. 

Most of Grimm’s sculptures feature human interaction with each figure possessing remarkable individual personality and character. She masterfully blends realism with unique stylization, creating figures that simultaneously appear modern and ancient.

Grimm notes, “My work appropriates historical narrative subjects deriving from fables and myths, and interprets them in forms that have visual and conceptual affinities with contemporary fine art—affinities that allow me to further explore and question the boundaries between pop art, kitsch, and high art.”

This exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Chipstone Foundation. Gerit Grimm is represented by the Tory Folliard Gallery.

Exhibition Activities

The exhibition is on view October 7, 2017–January 14, 2018.

Opening Party | Saturday, October 7 | 2:00–5:00 
Make it a mythical afternoon at the Opening Party for fall exhibitions. Meet artists Gerit Grimm and Romano Johnson while enjoying live music, light snacks, and a cash bar.
Artist Talk: A Craving for Clay | Thursday, October 19 | 6:30–7:30 
Gerit Grimm tells of her lifelong obsession with clay and how it has shaped her life from Germany to Wisconsin. A guided exhibition tour will follow.

Meet the Artist | Saturdays, November 18 and December 2 | 2:00–4:00 
Join Gerit Grimm for casual conversations in the Hyde Gallery.

About the Artist:

Grimm’s formal odyssey with clay began in 1992 with a three-year apprenticeship at the Altbürgeler blau-weiss GmbH in Bürgel, Germany, where she learned to be a potter in the established German manner, creating specific pots for her company and attending an annual school program on the theoretical aspects of ceramics. She then became a journeyman for the Joachim Jung Company in Glashagen. There, working quickly on a traditional potter’s wheel, she made hundreds of functional objects such as cups, plates, baking forms, teapots, pitchers, and onion jars; there was little room for self-expression.

The monotony fueled Grimm’s desire to create a more personal body of work. Returning to Halle, she studied ceramics at Burg Giebichenstein, earning an Art and Design Diploma in 2001. The following year, she was awarded the German DAAD Government Grant to attend the University of Michigan School of Art and Design, where she received her Master of Arts degree in 2002.

Grimm headed east to study at the renowned ceramics program at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in 2004. An eight-year ceramics wanderlust ensued: Grimm traveled around the country and accepted residencies with prestigious programs that enabled her to hone her creative skills and teaching abilities. In 2004, she worked at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. The following year, she studied with ceramic artist Ursula Hargens in St Paul, Minnesota, and at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. In 2006, Grimm taught at Montana State University in Bozeman, then returned to the Archie Bray Foundation, and made her first visit to Wisconsin with a residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. In 2007, after being at the LH Project in Wallowa, Oregon, she moved for three years to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she set up her own studio and participated in a one-year residency at the Lux Center for the Arts. In 2010, she was off again, collaborating with Leslie Ferrin Contemporary in Cummington, Massachusetts, and then moving across the country to Long Beach, California, where she taught at Pitzer College in Claremont and California State University Long Beach. Finally, in 2012, Grimm came to Wisconsin to teach as an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She felt ready to settle down for a while and pursue her career in a stable environment. Her recent production has been the most consistent and focused of her career.

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