ceramics collections are set to go on view at Mint Museum Randolph
from April 7 through January 6.
Sophisticated Surfaces: The Pottery of Herb Cohen pays tribute to a
Charlotte-based artist who has earned a national reputation as a
master of his craft – and who happens to be an important figure in
the Mint's own history. "Herb Cohen has long deserved to have his work
be the single focus of an exhibition. We are especially pleased to
present an in-depth overview of his career this year, in which The
Mint Museum celebrates its 75th anniversary, because in addition to
being a gifted potter, Herb served on the Mint's staff from 1959 to
1973," said Brian Gallagher, the Mint's curator of decorative arts.
The American Art Tile, 1880-1940 celebrates an art form that peaked
during the decades surrounding the turn of the last century. It
features approximately 40 tiles from the Mint's permanent collection,
including the permanently installed fireplace surround, Arkansas
"With these two exhibitions, the Mint continues to celebrate its
status as a leader and innovator in the fields of art, craft, and
design," said Dr. Kathleen V. Jameson, president & CEO of the Mint.
"We are particularly gratified to be able to host a solo exhibition
for a living Charlotte-based artist as deserving as Herb Cohen."
Sophisticated Surfaces: The Pottery of Herb Cohen is presented in
conjunction with A Thriving Tradition: 75 Years of Collecting North
Carolina Pottery, which is also on view at Mint Museum Randolph
through January 6. Cohen's work comprises a cornerstone in the
tradition of North Carolina pottery. He is highly regarded as an
innovative and extremely influential ceramicist, and has exhibited
widely throughout his seven-decade-long career as an award-winning
potter and sculptor.
Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Cohen first learned to throw
on the potter's wheel at the remarkably young age of 6. After earning
his MFA from Alfred University, Cohen worked as a designer for Hyalyn
Porcelain Company in Hickory. He eventually settled in Charlotte in
the late 1950s, where he joined the staff of The Mint Museum and was
instrumental in spearheading the regional craft and pottery movement.
In the 1970s he moved to Blowing Rock to establish his own studio, but
returned to Charlotte in 2010, where he remains active in the local
Throughout Cohen's career his work has embodied a particular marriage
of form and surface, as well as a balance between the formal and the
expressive. Following the evolution of Cohen's career, this exhibition
illustrates through forms that range from the functional to the
sculptural the inimitable skill and style for which Cohen has become
Cohen first learned to throw on the potter's wheel at the Henry Street
Settlement, an innovative community center on the Lower East Side of
Manhattan. He continued to take classes there throughout his childhood
and teenage years. He earned his BFA in 1952 and his MFA in 1956 from
New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, renowned for
its innovative ceramics program, and at the time, the only school of
its kind in the country. Cohen's work there demonstrated technical
mastery over industrial applications in ceramics — techniques of mass
production utilized in the field of industrial pottery.
In 1973, Cohen left Charlotte to fully devote himself to his craft.
With life partner and fellow artist José Fumero, he built a house and
studio in Blowing Rock. They named it Studios 2, and over the course
of the following 37 years, they successfully maintained their home,
studios, and business. Around 2005, Cohen developed a tremor in his
hand that would ultimately prevent him from continuing to throw on the
wheel; after 70 years of performing the same motion over and over, his
muscles simply refused to cooperate anymore. Rather than succumbing to
his physical limitation as a disability, he viewed this as a chance to
grow as an artist. Cohen turned his attention and creativity towards
more sculptural, hand-built works and pushed himself in new directions.
"My first exposure to contemporary craft was the annual shows that
Herb organized—this is what inspired me and gave me hope of being a
maker. In the 1970s, Herb gave me a spotlight show at the Mint; it was
the first great thing that happened to me as young artist," said
fellow celebrated North Carolina ceramicist Michael Sherrill. "Herb is
… a person of influence. He was able to do something that was very
unique; he has a modernist style of making pots that very few people
have—he comes from that post-World War II era reinventing of
The American Art Tile, 1880-1940
The turn of the last century was the golden age of the American art
tile. Whether glazed or unglazed, molded in relief or smooth-surfaced,
decorative tiles were a popular medium among many affluent consumers
wishing to furnish their homes and businesses in the latest fashions.
The tiles were used as fireplace surrounds, wall hangings, and for a
wide variety of other ornamental purposes, both interior and exterior.
This installation features approximately 40 tiles from The Mint
Museum's permanent collection, including the permanently installed
fireplace surround, Arkansas Traveller, modeled and designed circa
1916 by Henry Chapman Mercer of Moravian Pottery & Tile Works,
Doylestown, Pennsylvania. "This exhibition illustrates the tremendous
variety of decorative tiles made by American ceramics manufacturers in
the decades surrounding 1900," said Gallagher.
These exhibitions are organized by The Mint Museum, which is
supported, in part, with funding from the Arts & Science Council. For
more information, visit mintmuseum.org.
Caption for the attached image: Herb Cohen. American, born 1931.
Platter, circa 1996.
Stoneware, 3 ⅞ x 16 ⅞ inches. Private Collection. Photography by
ABOUT THE MINT MUSEUM
As the oldest art museum in North Carolina, and the art museum with
one of the largest collections in the Southeast, The Mint Museum
offers its visitors inspiring and transformative experiences through
art from around the world via innovative collections, ground-breaking
exhibitions, riveting educational programs, and profound scholarship.
The Mint Museum is a non-profit, visual arts institution comprised of
two dynamic facilities: Mint Museum Uptown and Mint Museum Randolph.
Located in what was the original branch of the United States Mint,
Mint Museum Randolph opened in 1936 in Charlotte's Eastover
neighborhood as the state's first art museum. Today, in a beautiful
park setting, intimate galleries invite visitors to engage with the
art of the ancient Americas, ceramics and decorative arts, fashion,
European and African art, among other collections. Resources include a
reference library with over 18,000 volumes, a theater featuring
lectures and performances, and a museum shop offering merchandise that
complements both the permanent collection and special exhibitions.
Mint Museum Uptown houses the internationally renowned Craft + Design
collection, as well as outstanding collections of American,
contemporary, and European art. Designed by Machado and Silvetti
Associates of Boston, the five-story, 145,000-square-foot facility
combines inspiring architecture with cutting-edge exhibitions to
provide visitors with unparalleled educational and cultural
experiences. Located in the heart of Charlotte's burgeoning center
city, Mint Museum Uptown is an integral part of the Levine Center for
the Arts, a cultural campus that includes the Bechtler Museum of
Modern Art, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and
Culture, the Knight Theater, and the Duke Energy Center. Mint Museum
Uptown also features a wide range of visitor amenities, including the
240-seat James B. Duke Auditorium, the Lewis Family Gallery, art
studios, a restaurant, and a museum shop. For more information, check