A Search for Relevance collects previously published essays by Rob Barnard, a modern potter, that chronicle the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that helped confirm his perception that pottery is capable of expressing the same kind of serious thoughts and feelings found in all other forms of art. These articles act as a public diary of Barnard’s search for relevance as a potter in contemporary Western society.
The analyses and opinions contained in these essays are not theoretical. They are a direct consequence of Barnard’s material struggle to understand the ability of pottery to profoundly address the human condition. Barnard argues that the making of any kind of serious art, whether it is painting, sculpture, photography or pottery, can only be sustained if this kind of powerful experience is at the core of the motivation for its creation.
In exploring how pottery, and other so-called traditional crafts, might still be relevant in modern culture Barnard asks; Where should contemporary craftspeople look for influence? What is in the basic nature of all crafts throughout history that makes it so important to us as human beings? By what standards should we judge contemporary crafts? For serious artists searching for relevancy these essays highlight one path towards living on the frontiers of your art.
Rob Barnard is a potter and writer who resides in the Shenandoah Valley. He began studying pottery at the University of Kentucky in 1971 and was a research student at Kyoto University of Fine Arts in Kyoto, Japan from 1974 to 1977, where he studied under the late Kazuo Yagi. He returned to the US in 1978. He has received two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, one in 1978, the second in 1990. He exhibits widely in the United States, Japan, and Great Britain and has had solo exhibitions in New York, Washington DC, Boston, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.
His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the Museum of Arts & Design, the Everson Museum, the Crocker Museum of Art, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Mint Museum.
Barnard was the ceramics editor for the New Art Examiner from 1987 to 1993 and has written for The Studio Potter, American Craft, Ceramics Monthly, The Logbook, Ceramics: Art & Perception, Keramick, and the New Art Examiner.