Join us on October 28th for the first-ever auction dedicated to the works of Claude Conover. Curated by Adam Edelsberg, this special event is comprised of more than 40 works including rare and unique forms alongside pieces that have never before been on the market.
An exhibition featuring all lots will be on view in New York City at the High Line Nine, 507 W. 27th Street. The exhibition opens October 21st and runs through October 27th, 10 am – 5 pm daily.
Discovering Claude Conover
by Adam Edelsberg
About fifteen years ago in bucolic upstate New York on the third floor of Mark McDonald’s seminal gallery, I found myself alone and surrounded by a large grouping of Claude Conover ceramic pots set on large plinths and surrounded by river stones. Silent and imposing, they hummed with presence. Their strength reminded me of images I’d seen from childhood: Easter Island, Stonehenge, and the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. At once ancient and modern, handmade and resolute, this collection was the beginning of my fascination with Claude Conover’s work and hidden legacy.
I tried to learn about Conover but gleaned very little. There was virtually no historical information to be found about him save a singular (inaccurate) bio and the same few portraits. Over the next decade his story remained an enigma to me, though I continued to search for his work and the market for it evolved.
About four years ago I was fortunate to receive an email from a colleague with a (now deleted) YouTube link to an episode from a 1980s local news series about crafts in Cleveland. Entitled The Bottle Maker, it was a delightful five-minute film about Conover. There he was at his house in Euclid, working in a converted backyard studio. In voiceover he muses on art, nature and the beauty in found objects. At one point, he expresses his belief that “art is in nature” as he strolls through the backyard with his wife Josephine, stopping to inspect a fallen pine cone. This small film, illustrating Conover’s affable demeanor and earnestness, re-ignited my curiosity about his history.
A full-color catalog accompanies the auction and exhibition.
The Ceramic Forms of Claude Conover
by Glenn Adamson
Revolution or resolution? In modern ceramics, the former gets most of the acclaim. The disciplinary rupture brought about in the 1950s by Peter Voulkos in California, and by comparable figures in other parts of the world, was a paradigm shift, to be sure. But it wasn’t all that was happening. There were other, equally vital currents flowing through ceramics at midcentury, less explicitly avant-garde, but equally rooted in modernism.
Claude Conover deserves recognition as one of these alternative protagonists. In many respects, he was the direct antithesis of Voulkos. Based in the Midwest rather than America’s “left coast,” he went about his work with quiet professionalism. Voulkos’s work was disjunctive, built from typical pot-shapes like slabs and thrown cylinders but piled up in highly experimental configurations. Conover’s vessels are sublime in their coherence, constructed in a totally unconventional way that somewhat disguises its own innovativeness. Even their biographies crisscross: Voulkos was a skilled potter who battered his way into sculpture through sheer force of will, while Conover initially trained as a sculptor and found himself making pots almost by chance.
Introducing the Claude Conover Archive
Claude Conover devoted the second half of his life to his artistic production creating an extraordinary collection of monumental bottles and vessels. Not only was he a prolific creator, he was also a thorough record keeper. Adam Edelsberg discovered that the artist’s heirs retained all of the artist’s files, a vast majority of the pieces offered here are documented in the archive.
The Ceramic Forms of Claude Conover
Auction / Chicago
28 October 2021
11 am central
Preview / New York
21 – 27 October 2021
10 am – 5 pm daily
For additional information
312 563 0020