Charles Krafft (American, born 1947)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Donald Thornberry
“When it comes to exchanging information on the nuts and bolts of art making, I prefer the company of criminals, undertakers, and sagacious blue-haired grannies,” declares ceramist Charles Krafft.1 He mentions the latter because in order to learn how to apply underglaze and overglaze decoration to his slip-cast forms, he enrolled in a china-painting class intended for senior citizens. Indeed, the artist is a self-taught painter who found a new canvas with slip-cast clay. His production is one in which social critique figures foremost. Pleased by the daintiness and civility of blue-on-white tableware, Krafft decided after travel abroad in 1995 to charge the traditional decorative form with a shock by slip casting and decorating military arms. This resulted in the exhibition The Porcelain War Museum Project, an endeavor that required Krafft to purchase actual weapons. He cast these in porcelain and incongruently decorated them in a manner recalling the table finery of the 18th-century aristocracy, but with floral motifs based on Slovenian folk embroidery. Shown here from this series are a Chinese knockoff of a Russian AK-47 and an American pineapple grenade. Krafft aims for irony but also wants us to confront in political instability some of mankind’s “cruelest, most absurd behavior in a way that penetrates the numbness induced by media overload.”2
1. Charles Krafft, “Villa Delirium Delft Works,” Ceramics Monthly, 46 no. 7 (September 1998): 68 .
2. Douglas Cruickshank, “Been there, smashed that.” Salon.com, 30 May 2005.