Symposia & Conferences

360 Symposium: Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943–1963, and Its Legacy

September 21, 2013

Organized to coincide with the public opening of the exhibition Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943–1963, this symposium offers a number of new perspectives on the often-overlooked, yet ground-breaking work in fired clay of some of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Symposium Participant Bios—Morning Session

Jed Morse

Jed Morse is Chief Curator of the Nasher Sculpture Center and curator of Return to Earth.  He served as the editor of the exhibition catalogue and contributed an essay on Joan Miró.  A specialist in Spanish modernism and modern and contemporary sculpture, Morse received a Master of Arts degree in art history from the University of Texas at Austin.  Since 1999, he has held curatorial positions at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center where he has contributed to such exhibitions and catalogues as Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century (2001), David Smith: Drawing and Sculpting (2005), and Matisse: Painter as Sculptor (2007).  Morse has also organized numerous exhibitions, including Jaume Plensa: Genus and Species (2010); Revelation: The Art of James Magee (2010); and Tony Cragg: Seeing Things (2011), for which he served as the primary author.  In addition to his duties at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Morse has contributed to books such as Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí (Cleveland Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006), and has lectured widely on a variety of topics.  He is currently working on Nasher XChange, an ambitious exhibition of art in the public realm commissioning 10 new works of art by 10 artists for 10 sites throughout the city of Dallas in celebration of the Nasher Sculpture Center’s 10th Anniversary.

Catherine Craft

Catherine Craft is the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Assistant Curator for Research and Exhibitions.  An expert on Dada, Abstract Expressionism, and Neo-Dada, Craft received her doctoral degree in art history from the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of An Audience of Artists:  Dada, Neo-Dada, and the Emergence of Abstract Expressionism (University of Chicago, 2012) and Robert Rauschenberg (Phaidon, 2013), as well numerous articles and reviews. She has presented talks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven. As a senior research fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she conceived and co-curated the 2011 exhibition Paper Trails: Selected Works from the Permanent Collection 1934-2001. At the Nasher, she has contributed catalogue essays on Isamu Noguchi for Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943–1963 (2013) and on Katharina Grosse for Katharina Grosse: WUNDERBLOCK (2013). She is presently organizing a retrospective of the sculptor Melvin Edwards for 2015 and an exhibition on Hans (Jean) Arp’s sculpture, reliefs and works on paper for 2017.

Dakin Hart

Dakin Hart recently began work as Senior Curator of The Noguchi Museum in New York.  Prior to this post, he served as Assistant to the Director for Harry Parker at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Director of Arts Programs at Montalvo Center for the Arts in Silicon Valley, and Assistant Director for the Nasher Sculpture Center, helping to complete and open the museum in 2002–03.  He moved to New York in 2004 where he pursued a PhD in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU) with Robert Rosenblum and worked with Picasso biographer John Richardson, culminating in the third volume of Richardson’s Life of Picasso and a series of exhibitions for Gagosian Gallery, including Picasso: Mosqueteros and Picasso: The Mediterranean Years (1945-1962). As an independent curator and writer, Hart organized Sculpture in So Many Words: Text Pieces 1960-80 (Nasher Sculpture Center, 2012), a survey of text-based works relating to the conceptual fragmentation and expansion of the practice of sculpture in the 1960s and 70s, and Sure Sure Davi Det Hompson: 1976-1995, a retrospective for the American neo-Dada, Fluxus, and book artist David Det Hompson (ZieherSmith Gallery, New York, 2013), as well as contributed an essay on Picasso’s work in ceramics entitled “Pablo Picasso: Life with Art” to the exhibition catalogue for Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943–1963 (2013).

Marin R. Sullivan

Marin R. Sullivan is the Henry Moore Foundation Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds (Leeds, UK).  Prior to her present appointment, Dr. Sullivan taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Michigan, and Southern Methodist University. She has also held various curatorial positions and fellowships at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Dr. Sullivan’s research investigates the history of modern and contemporary sculpture, with a particular emphasis on the postwar European and American context. She is preparing a book manuscript tentatively titled Sculptural Arenas: Material and Action in Postwar Italy and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications, including the Journal of Curatorial Studies (forthcoming October 2013).  Most recently, she has contributed a catalogue essay entitled “Lucio Fontana and Fausto Melotti: Ceramic Sculpture in Post-War Italy” for the Nasher Sculpture Center’s forthcoming exhibition, Return to Earth: Ceramic Sculpture of Fontana, Melotti, Miró, Noguchi, and Picasso, 1943–1963 (2013). Sullivan received her doctoral degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Symposium Participant Bios—Afternoon Session

Nicole Cherubini

A sculptor known for her abstract ceramic works, Cherubini uses techniques of ornamentation, assemblage, and coiling to create works that meld the visual aesthetic of high art with that of the utilitarian object. Incorporating unexpected materials such as chain link, wood, tufts of fur, and fragments of glass, Cherubini creates works that often reference traditional art-historical uses of clay, such as vessels or vases, but which simultaneously overturn those conceits. Incorporating multiple materials into a single work, Cherubini layers them to create unexpected textures and forms, inviting viewers to reconsider the modern incantation of ceramic sculpture. Cherubini's work has been exhibited at notable institutions such as the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and MoMA Ps1, among others.

Ginger Geyer

Austin-based artist Ginger Geyer was born in 1953, grew up in Arkansas, and earned her BFA and MFA degrees from Southern Methodist University. She worked for 13 years at the Kimbell Art Museum and Dallas Museum of Art in conservation, collection management, and planning. Geyer received a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest. She has been an Adjunct Professor there and at Concordia University, in painting and ceramics. Since 1999 she has served as arts consultant and gallery curator for Laity Lodge, a retreat center supported by the H.E. Butt Foundation in the Texas Hill Country. Hand-built, glazed porcelain has been her primary medium since 1990, creating detailed pieces that evoke a blend of her experiences as a playful church-fed child, a curious museum professional, wife and mother of two, and an insatiable student of theology. Ginger is currently represented by Valley House Gallery in Dallas, TX, and by literary agent Kathleen Davis Niendorff. Formerly representation includes Cidnee Patrick/Edith Baker Gallery, Dallas, Texas, and LyonsMatrix Gallery, Austin, Texas.

Brian Molanphy

A European bicycle tour introduced Brian Molanphy to wood-fired ceramics & wood-oven baked bread. He studied pots and pastry until a Pennsylvania State University Fellowship put pastry on the back burner. Upon completion of the Ceramics MFA degree, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the National Manufactory of Sèvres, France. As artist-in-residence at the Alberta College of Art & Design in Calgary, Canada he completed exhibitions there & in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He returned to France as a Fellow of the Camargo Foundation in Cassis and as a Fellow of the Brown Foundation in Ménerbes, which led to several exhibitions in France. He is an elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics, which presents contemporary ceramics at its highest level, including fewer than 80 American artists. Molanphy began teaching ceramics at Southern Methodist University in the fall of 2011. In 2012 he was awarded a Meadows Faculty Development Grant and a University Research Council Grant for continued research on marbled clay in France. Recent exhibitions include Mondes céramiques, Aubagne, France; Craft Texas, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft; les fontaines, Beaumont, France; and Beyond the Brickyard, Archie Bray Foundation.  

Variable States: Intention, Appearance and Interpretation in Modern Sculpture

October 22-23, 2004

The Nasher Sculpture Center marked its first anniversary with an interdisciplinary conference focused on issues of interpretation and meaning surrounding the variability of physical states in modern sculpture. Co-organized with the J. Paul Getty Museum and funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the conference brought together over 130 art historians, conservators and curators for a fruitful exchange of ideas and information. The conference explored the following issues:

  • How multiple casts and mutable physical states influence perception and interpretation of a work’s basic character and meaning.
  • Artistic intent toward change in a work’s appearance.
  • Appropriate conservation in light of artistic intent and change.

Initial meetings to plan the Variable States conference began in the fall of 2002 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Participants in early discussions included Raymond Nasher and Steven A. Nash from the Nasher Sculpture Center and Barry Munitz, Peggy Fogelman and Claire Fronville from the J. Paul Getty Trust and J. Paul Getty Museum. In subsequent meetings, discussions expanded to include other members of both institutions.

Under the direction of Steven A. Nash and Peggy Fogelman, a conference advisory committee was formed including preeminent scholars and conservators in the field of modern sculpture. The committee included: Malcolm Baker (Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum; Professor, University of Southern California; and Special Advisor, Getty Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance), James Coddington (Chief Conservator, Museum of Modern Art, New York), Penelope Curtis (Curator, Henry Moore Institute), Peggy Fogelman (Assistant Director for Education, J. Paul Getty Museum), Pamela Franks (Curator of Education, Nasher Sculpture Center), Carol Mancusi-Ungaro (Founding Director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard University Museums; and Director of Conservation, Whitney Museum of American Art), Steven A. Nash (Director, Nasher Sculpture Center), Derek Pullen (Head of Sculpture Conservation, Tate), and Kirk Varnedoe (Professor, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton). Claire Fronville, Assistant to the President for Special Projects at the J. Paul Getty Museum, was named administrative coordinator for the conference.

Center Director Steven A. Nash acted as curator for the supporting exhibition, Variable States: Three Masterworks of Modern Sculpture. Included were multiple casts of the following works: The Age of Bronze by Auguste Rodin, Bust of Diego by Alberto Giacometti, and Louis XIV by Jeff Koons. The sculptures in the exhibition served as a springboard for dynamic, object-based examinations and discussions during the entire conference, offering a rare opportunity for close comparison and analysis of related works. The casts differ from one another in important ways, such as materials, patinas and appearance due to weathering.

The program included prepared introductory papers, gallery discussions, video broadcast into the auditorium, and an interactive dialogue between participants and the audience representing multiple viewpoints. The conference yielded new perspectives on the subjects involved and pointed toward new areas for future research. We encourage you to read the transcriptions provided.

The conference began on Friday evening, October 22, with the keynote lecture Why Matter Matters by Adam Gopnik, author, art critic and writer for The New Yorker. In his lecture, Gopnik addressed the secular human ritual of viewing art and, in particular, the impact and meaning for viewers of the physicality of sculpture. Gopnik highlighted the uniqueness of sculpture and opined that its scale, materiality and three-dimensionality acted more effectively even than other art forms in “changing actual time to cultural time” by inducing, through confrontation with objects, a consciousness of self and historical/cultural place. The lecture led into Saturday’s discussions, in which physicality and time figured prominently as factors in the analysis of changes and inherent differences in the variable states of sculptures, and the different conservation issues involved. (By request of the lecturer, a transcription of the keynote presentation is not available.)

The transcription begins with the conference proceedings on Saturday, October 23. After a brief introduction by Steven A. Nash, the morning session began with two papers, presenting an introduction to the discussion. A Curator’s Point of View was presented by Penelope Curtis, and A Conservator’s Point of View presented by Derek Pullen. Curtis and Pullen completed their presentation with a discussion session with the audience.

These presentations were followed by discussions in the gallery among a group of specialists focused on each of the groups of sculpture in the exhibition. The gallery discussions were broadcast into the auditorium for the audience to hear and observe. Each gallery session was followed by a discussion session with the audience.

The conference was concluded with a panel discussion including all conference panelists, moderated by Steven Nash. A full list of conference panelists is listed at the end of this summary.

The innovative spirit of the conference also included a last-minute addition to the conference proceedings. Jed Morse, Assistant Curator of the Nasher Sculpture Center, gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting a digital scanning project developed between the Center and Van Duzen Archives from Dallas, Texas. For the presentation, the digital scanning focused on Rodin’s The Age of Bronze. It was shown how the scans create a computerized and highly accurate 3-D image of the sculpture, which can be used for different diagnostic purposes. The scanning project is a safe, hands-off technique that captures subtle differences between different casts. The application of the digital scanning can be used in many ways and representatives from Van Duzen Archives were available during the lunch break to demonstrate the 3-D software. The text from this report as well as the images from the presentation are included in the transcription.

Conference Transcript


The conference was made possible through the generous support of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We also wish to acknowledge the generosity of the lending institutions that have participated and allowed the reproductions of works of art as part of this conference website.

If you have any questions or comments, please email


Conference Panelists

Malcolm Baker, Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Professor, University of Southern California

Michael Brenson, Independent Critic

Ruth Butler, Professor, University of Massachusetts at Boston

Penelope Curtis, Curator, Henry Moore Institute

Richard Deacon, Artist

Valerie Fletcher, Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Peggy Fogelman, Assistant Director for Education, J. Paul Getty Museum

Pamela Franks, Curator of Academic Affairs, Yale University Art Gallery

David Getsy, J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellow

Andrew Lins, Conservator, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Hanspeter Marty, Conservator, Kunsthaus Zürich

Steven Nash, Director, Nasher Sculpture Center

Derek Pullen, Conservator, Tate

Joel Shapiro, Artist

Véronique Wiesinger, Director, Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation, Paris

Julie Wolfe, Conservator, J. Paul Getty Museum