Picks and Pans Review: The New Ceramics

updated 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Peter Dormer

It's terribly old-fashioned, but some people believe art is art and crafts ought to be functional. That distinction has vanished completely, as evidenced by the photographs in these two beautiful art books. American Craft Today (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $40) is subtitled "Poetry of the Physical." Works by 286 artists made up an exhibition that reopened New York's American Craft Museum last fall. Some works are collages; many are ceramic sculptures; there are woven pieces suitable only as wall hangings. Except for a glorious wooden rocker by Sam Maloof, most of these furnishings appear to be more decorative than useful. Smith, the museum's director, notes in his introduction that crafts today are being "created primarily for their aesthetic value." The New Ceramics (Thames and Hudson, $35) is devoted mostly to pots in various styles. There is a bowl that looks as if it has been woven crudely like a basket and then painted. Pitchers range from delicate and refined to bold slabs of fired clay. Some cups look like deco sculpture, and there's a double bust of George Washington gazing adoringly at Mona Lisa. Dormer, co-author of The New Jewelry, says, "Studio pottery is currently more exuberant, more experimental and sometimes more anarchic than ever before." This volume stresses the anarchy.

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