Underneath Everything: Humility and Grandeur in Contemporary Ceramics

Oct 7, 2023 — Jan 14, 2024

Clay is the humblest of materials. It is underneath everything…You can manipulate a world with clay. It is the foundation of sculpture.” –Theaster Gates

About the Exhibition

During an artist lecture in December 2021, Theaster Gates evoked a fascinating paradox in contemporary ceramics practice. Clay is the humblest of materials, often overlooked and more readily associated with a morning cup of coffee than with the international art world. But it is underneath everything. There is an expansiveness to work made or based in this medium, as artists push the limitations of clay, attaching layers of conceptual meaning and playing with the boundaries between ceramics and other media including film, photography, painting, performance, and installation.

This exhibition features artworks that honor the humility of the medium while simultaneously evoking a sense of grandeur and possibility.

Underneath Everything: Humility and Grandeur in Contemporary Ceramics is organized by the Des Moines Art Center in consultation with an Artist Advisory Committee including Katayoun Amjadi, Donté K. Hayes, Ingrid Lilligren, and Chuck Purviance. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, featuring essays by exhibition curator Mia Laufer, Dr. Glenn Adamson, and Dr. Tiffany Momon.

Featured Artists
Katayoun Amjadi
Eliza Au
Sally Binard
Paul Briggs
Candice J. Davis
Edmund de Waal
Theaster Gates
Donté Hayes
Simone Leigh
Anina Major
Heidi McKenzie
Magdalene A.N. Odundo DBE
Vick Quezada
Ibrahim Said
Rae Stern
Ehren Tool
Ai Weiwei

Exhibition Support

Support for this exhibition is generously provided by:

  • Wege Foundation
  • MillerKnoll Foundation
  • Kum & Go
  • James and Mary Nelson
  • Terry D. West and Richard L. Hagan
  • Greenleaf Trust
  • Haworth Helps
  • Dirk and June Hoffius
  • Jeffery Roberts Design
  • Stephanie Naito

Additional funding provided by the GRAM Exhibition Society. 

Lead Exhibition Society Sponsor