The papers of ceramicist, educator, and arts administrator James Melchert measure 7.0 linear feet and 12.28 Gigabytes, and date from circa 1949 to 2021. The collection documents Melchert's career through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, professional files documenting Melchert's teaching, residences, exhibitions, and other professional activities, writings, printed material documenting exhibitions and more, photographic material including images of Melchert and his artwork, and artwork comprising slide projection works.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of ceramicist, educator, and arts administrator James Melchert measure 7 linear feet and 12.28 Gigabytes, and date from circa 1949 to 2021.
Biographical material includes biographies and résumés, travel documents, and student records. Correspondence is professional and personal in nature and includes letters from artists such as Lawrence Weiner, Adrian Piper, Sol Lewitt, Hetty Huisman, and Peter Voulkos; gallerists and curators including Holly Solomon, Paul Kotula, Marcia Tucker, Lucy Lippard, and Harald Szemann; and notable former students including Paul Cotton and Theresa Cha. Professional files include records and correspondence from Melchert's tenures at the American Academy in Rome, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of California Berkeley, in addition to documenting other professional activities.
The writings series includes interviews, talks, panels, symposia, notes, artist statements, and autobiographical texts. Printed material includes clippings and exhibition documentation. Photographic material includes images of Melchert and his artwork from various stages of his career. Artwork includes Melchert's slide projection works represented by slides, and an artist multiple by Nam June Paik.
The collection is arranged in seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1949-2019 (0.1 Linear feet: Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1953-2021 (3.1 Linear feet: Boxes 1-4; 3.93 Gigabytes: ER01-ER02)
Series 3: Professional Files, circa 1965-2020 (0.8 Linear feet: Box 4)
Series 4: Writings, circa 1960s-2020 (0.7 Linear feet: Box 5; 8.35 Gigabytes: ER03-ER05)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1960s-2020 (1.4 Linear feet: Boxes 5-7)
Series 6: Photographic Material, circa 1952-2017 (0.6 Linear feet: Box 7)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1968-1990 (0.3 Linear feet: Box 7)
Biographical / Historical:
James Melchert (1930-2023) was a ceramicist and educator who lived in Oakland, California. Melchert was known for his uniquely conceptualist approach to ceramics which draws from other disciplines including painting and performance art.
Born in New Bremen, Ohio, Melchert's education followed an unorthodox path: upon finishing his undergraduate degree in Art History in 1952, he spent four years in Japan teaching English at a high school, during which time he met his wife to be, a missionary and collage artist named Mary Ann Hostetler, with whom he would have three children. Melchert received a first master's degree from the University of Chicago in 1957 in painting, followed by a second master's degree in ceramics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1961. He shifted his focus to ceramics while completing his painting degree and attended a five-day workshop with the highly innovative and influential Peter Voulkos, with whom he would study at Berkeley and for whom he would serve as studio assistant. Melchert's career as a ceramicist began with a close association to Voulkos and the California Funk art movement.
Melchert's evolving interests led to his work including performance art and slide projection works, one of which was exhibited at Documenta 5 curated by Harald Szeemann in Kassel, Germany. After a trip to Europe in the eighties, Melchert began his experimental investigations with ceramic tile, working with cracks and imperfections in tiles and painting on the resulting works, a theme that would be an occupation of his studio practice to this day. Melchert taught fairly steadily throughout the early stages of his career and is known as a dedicated instructor to artists of various disciplines, including Paul Cotton and Theresa Cha.
Notably Melchert served as a faculty member at University of California at Berkeley from 1964-1994, with a stint living in Washington D.C. serving as the Director of Visual Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts from 1977 to 1981, and in Rome, Italy as the Director of American Academy, Rome from 1984 to 1988. As an artist, in addition to being exhibited around the world, Melchert's ceramic works including commissions are held in numerous collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Yale University Museum of Art.
Related materials include Archives of American Art's Oral history interview with James Melchert, 1991 Apr. 4-5, and Oral history interview with James Melchert, 2002 September 18-October 19.
Donated 2004 and 2019-2021 by James Melchert as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records or audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
An interview of Barbara Bloom conducted 2012 October-2013 January 31, by James McElhinney, for the Archives of American Art, at Bloom's home and studio, in New York, New York.
Bloom speaks of growing up in Brentwood, California; her first experience with art; her childhood and exposure to creativity; the influence of art and philosophy; going to museums as a kid; living in Monte Factor and then Los Angeles; her creative process, influences, and life as an artist; art mentors and art lessons with Cathy Herman; traveling with her family; her mom being an actress; attending Bennington College in Vermont, the 1960s, the and collage aesthetic; attending CalArt; the changes in art education at the university level; drugs use; Fluxus; John Cage and attending 4'33; living in Europe and specifically Netherlands, Germany, and Holland; books and love of reading; her daughter; the post-studio era; film and meta-movies; making "The Diamond Lane;" images and objects' connection to meanings; The Gaze; undressing the wall; Homage to Jean Seberg, Godard, Berlin; East Germany; being agnostic and Jewish; Venice Biennale; collectors; cycle of shows; MFA programs; The Tip of the Iceberg; surgeries; hospital visit, personal training, and recovery; The Seven Deadly Sins; her father; Tellus Magazine; Judaism; fabrications and drawings; archives; relationship between the artist and the viewer; her husband; 010011.net; recent show; and As It Were, So To Speak. Bloom also recalls Monte and Betty Factor, Ed Kienholz, Ron Kappe, Robbie Robe, Ray Kappe, Matt Mullican, Eric Orr, Robert Irwin, Doug Wheeler, Total: digital recordings; Claire Steinman, Rosemarie Trockel, Ash Grove, James Lee Byars, Frances Rey, Sidney Tillim, Norman O. Brown, Paul Cotton, Paul Brock, Buckminster Fuller, John Baldessari, Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Serge Tcherepnin, Simone Forte, Charlemagne Palestine, La Monte Young, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Marcel Broodthaers, Susan Sontag, Tim Maul, Caroline Tisdale, Marcel Duchamp, Laura Mulvey, John Berger, Oscar Wilde, Ed Ruscha, Isabella Kacprzak, Octavio Paz, Leo Castelli, Allen Ruppersberg, Jay Gorney, Claudia Gould, Susan Bronstein, Donald Judd, Robert DuGrenier, Pistoletto, Anthony Coleman, Mel Bochner, and Ken Saylor.
Biographical / Historical:
Barbara Bloom (1951- ) is a photographer, designer, and installation artist in New York, New York. James McElhinney (1952- ) is an artist and professor in New York, New York.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.