MISSOULA – From Jan. 11 through May 26, the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana will present two exhibitions emphasizing the splendor of its permanent collection.

Jiří Anderle, Summer I (from the cycle Dialogue with the Grand Masters), 1982, intaglio (softground, mezzotint, drypoint, and cut plate à la poupée). UM Photo

“Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode” celebrates Patnode’s momentous gift of 127 prints by outstanding Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak and Slovenian artists. Former director and curator of the Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University, Patnode’s astute collecting practice yields an extraordinary glimpse into creativity in the shadow of Soviet communism. From Khrushchev’s mid-1950s cultural “Thaw” to the Prague Spring, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath, Eastern European artists used the print medium to recover national traditions and to critique the totalitarian culture that threatened to eclipse them.

Vladimír Suchánek, May Night, ca. 1973, lithograph. UM Photo

Over and above the historical record it presents, this exhibition is a veritable survey of technical mastery by some of the region’s most accomplished printmakers, including Jiří Anderle, Alena Kučerová, Oldřich Kulhánek and Pravoslav Sovák. Examples from an accompanying research archive consisting of 59 rare books, corresponding monographs and exhibition catalogues will also be on view.

“Decades: Ceramics in the Permanent Collection” is co-curated by UM ceramics Professor Julia Galloway and MMAC Curator of Art Jeremy Canwell. The exhibition surveys the permanent collection from the beginning of the American ceramics movement up to the present, examining formal and thematic developments since its onset in the mid-1940s.

In Galloway’s words, “Observing the MMAC ceramics collection through the decades reveals the great complexity of the field and the great strides artists have made over the last seventy years.”

Peter and Henry Meloy, Untitled, ca. 1945, stoneware with slip inlay, Courtesy Henry Meloy Educational Trust. UM Photo

Beginning with collaborations by Peter and Henry Meloy and early works by Branson Stevenson and Peter Voulkos, the show highlights work that broke with clay’s decorative and utilitarian heritage to usher in what we now know as contemporary ceramics.

In the subsequent decades, artists like Rudy Autio, Tony Hepburn, Ken Little and Frances Senska turned toward a sculptural understanding of clay, guided more by the physical properties of the medium than principles of quality manufacture. These artists laid the groundwork for more whimsical work produced by artists in the 1980s, such as Tom Rippon and Douglas Baldwin. Examples of their work appear alongside exploratory works by Josh DeWeese, David Shaner, David Smith, Shalene Valenzuela and Kurt Weiser. Some of the most daring advances in artistic sensibility and glazing and firing techniques were made in this era, and the works on view will excite both ceramics enthusiasts and newcomers to the clay medium.

Beth Lo, Untitled platter from the series Good Children, 1993, porcelain with slip inlay. UM Photo

More contemporary trends like the emergence of personal narrative and mythology will be on view in works by artists defining the field today, such as UM ceramics Professors Beth Lo and Trey Hill, along with many recent graduates of UM’s own ceramics program, including Crista Ann Ames, Megan Bogonovich, Alex Kraft, Ryan Mitchell and Sue Tirrell.

In Lo’s words, “This exhibition is a testament to MMAC's vision and foresight, and the collection represents the striking sophistication, inspiration and variety of ceramic art made in the state of Montana.”

The exhibitions will open with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, in the lobby of the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center.

Programs presented in conjunction with the exhibitions will include the following events, which are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted:

  • 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22: MMAC and the Roxy Theater present Eastern European Film Series: “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” 718 Higgins Ave. $8 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12: MMAC and the Roxy Theater present Eastern European Film Series: “Werckmeister Harmonies,” in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” 718 Higgins Ave. $8 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, March 5: MMAC and the Roxy Theater present Eastern European Film Series: “Three Colors” trilogy Part I, in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” 718 Higgins Ave. $8 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors.
  • 2-5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, Masquer Theatre and 5:30-7 p.m., Meloy Gallery, PAR/TV Center: Guest artists Sue Tirrell and Montana State University art Associate Professor Josh DeWeese will join UM ceramics Professor Trey Hill will demonstrate their own working processes in the Masquer Theatre. Gallery interpretation of “Decades: Ceramics from the Permanent Collection” will follow at 5:30 p.m. in the Meloy Gallery with co-curators Julia Galloway and Jeremy Canwell. Refreshments will be served. Sales proceeds from ceramics created and donated by co-curator UM Professor Galloway will benefit the MMAC ceramics collection.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, March 12: MMAC and the Roxy Theater present Eastern European Film Series: “Three Colors” trilogy Part II, in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” 718 Higgins Ave., $8 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, March 19: MMAC and the Roxy Theater present Eastern European Film Series: “Three Colors” trilogy Part III, in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” 718 Higgins Ave., $8 for the general public, $7 for students and seniors.
  • 5:15-6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 5, Paxson Gallery, PAR/TV Center: Curator-led tour of “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode” with MMAC Curator of Art Jeremy Canwell.
  • 5:15-6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, Paxson Gallery, PAR/TV Center: MMAC presents a Gallery Walk and UM Print Shop Tour with UM Professor of Printmaking & Painting/Drawing James Bailey in conjunction with “Contemporary Eastern European Prints: Recent Gifts from J. Scott Patnode.” Refreshments will be served.
Vladimír Suchánek, May Night, ca. 1973, lithograph. UM Photo

MMAC’s Permanent Collection began over 120 years and exists primarily because of the generosity of scores of donors like J. Scott Patnode. Sponsors for these two exhibitions include two anonymous donors, George and Dorothea Lambros and MMAC Champion members.

MMAC’s gallery hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and on UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. Docent tours are available and advance notice is appreciated. For more information visit the museum's website.