Art Review


Right now there's a major retrospective that examines the work of Mark Zamantakis, one of the state's most significant ceramic artists. The exhibit, Zamantakis: From the Earth, is ensconced in the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery (2121 East Asbury Avenue, 303-871-2846) at the University of Denver. It was put together by a committee of prominent figures in the local clay scene.

The Myhren is the perfect venue for this show, because Zamantakis is a graduate of DU, where he received his BFA in 1950 and an MFA in 1951. He was a protegé of the late John Billmeyer, and Zamantakis credits his mentor with his lifelong interest in glazing. "Billmeyer got me into glazes, and I've been interested in creating color in pottery ever since," Zamantakis says.

The exhibit, which includes hundreds of items lent by a score of collectors, begins with a display of vessels Zamantakis created while he was a student; it then follows his development over the following fifty-plus years. His pottery has been organized, on platforms and pedestals, by the decades and ends with the work he's done since 2000. Though he is now 77, Zamantakis is still in his studio all the time. "I have to stay active," he says. "For me to just sit and vegetate -- that would be stupid."

American studio ceramics owes a big debt to Asian pottery, and so, therefore, does Zamantakis's work (as shown above). In the 1960s, he studied in Japan, and when he returned, he built a three-chambered climbing kiln, called a noborigama, in Morrison. After residents complained about the smoke, he built another outside Fairplay. In addition to the influence of Asia, Zamantakis's pots also have Mediterranean references. "My father was from Crete, and so I became exposed to Hellenic culture and the master potters of ancient Crete," he says.

The breathtaking From the Earth has been given a ridiculously short three-week run, and the Myhren has extremely limited hours during the holidays. That means there's only two days left to see it -- Saturday, December 27, and Sunday, December 28 -- before it closes. If I were you, I'd get over there.

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia