NEW AMERICAN SCENERY: The Art of Paul Scott

Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY August 13th, 2022 – January 3rd, 2023

NAS | ON VIEW

NEW AMERICAN SCENERY:


The Art of Paul Scott

This exhibition features the artwork of British artist Paul Scott, paired with transferwares, prints and paintings from the Albany Institute’s collection. Together, they enact a dialogue between present and past—between Scott’s observations of America today and the constructed ideals and romanticized views consumed by Americans in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

For the past five years, Scott has examined, reworked, and reinterpreted the transfer-printed ceramics that English potteries produced by the thousands throughout the nineteenth century. These earthenware plates, platters, and pitchers, printed in shades of blue, red, purple, and black, graced many American dining tables and presented images of picturesque scenery and stately public buildings. In his series, New American Scenery, Scott scrutinizes the American landscape from a contemporary perspective, one that grapples with issues of globalization, energy generation and consumption, capitalism, social justice, and immigration, as well as the human impact on the environment. The images that Scott creates for his ceramics depict unsettling views of nuclear power plants, aging urban centers, abandoned industrial sites, wildfires, and isolating walls. As representations of the American landscape, they suggest a subversion of the picturesque aesthetic—the unpicturesque picturesque—and a new, disturbing norm.

Scott’s journey began in 1999, when he saw a dark blue English platter printed with a scene of the Hudson River. It was in the collection of Ohio State University. He had never seen anything like it back in England even though thousands of such pieces were produced there and sold to the American market. Their surfaces displayed the scenic wonders of the American landscape, its early factories and mills, transportation networks, and prominent civic buildings. Only more recently have British museums added American scenery transferwares to their collections. 

Multi-year funding from the Alturas Foundation through an Artist in Residence grant allowed Scott to travel through the U.S. to research these historic transfer-printed ceramics. Additional support was provided by his gallery Ferrin Contemporary. Research into transferware archives at Spode, V&A Wedgwood, and material at V&A Prints & Drawings Department in London was enabled by funding from Arts Council England.

His first visit to the Albany Institute in 2016 revealed a wealth of materials, including a mammoth transfer-printed jug made sometime in the 1820s for the Troy merchant Horace Jones. With dozens of other historic transferware ceramics, and collections rich in landscape art, including Hudson River School paintings, the Albany Institute offered Scott abundant inspiration for his New American Scenery series.

Scott likened his travels to those of early nineteenth-century Europeans who journeyed to the United States and recorded the sights and people encountered along the way, British pottery owner, Ralph Stevenson among them. Once back in England, Stevenson hired engravers to reproduce the American scenery he witnessed for printing his own ceramic plates and platters. “New American Scenery references and updates the original transferware made by British factories,” Scott explains. “My work is a personal response to being in and traveling in America.”

NAS | EVENTS

Caroline Robinson, photographer, Lakeland Arts.

CLOSING RECEPTION | OUR AMERICA/WHOSE AMERICA?

Artist talk with Paul Scott about New American Scenery

Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 |  5-7 pm

Closing reception of the ‘OAWA’ exhibition at Ferrin Gallery, with special guest artist Paul Scott (UK) in attendance, as well as select additional artists and the curators in the exhibition.

Free to Public

at Ferrin Contemporary, North Adams, MA

LECTURE | PAUL SCOTT: NEW AMERICAN SCENERY

Sunday, November 6, 2:00 to 3:00pm

In this lecture, Paul Scott will discuss his artistic process and provide exclusive insights into Paul Scott, New American Scenery.

Included with gallery admission.

LEARN MORE

NAS | GUIDE

NEW AMERICAN SCENERY IN THE US


Visit these museums in the US that have recently acquired work
from Scott?s American Scenery series.

Crocker Art Museum
Birmingham Museum of Art
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
RISD Museum
Boston MFA
Brooklyn Museum
Newark Museum
Carnegie Museum of Art
Mount Holyoke Art Museum
Chipstone Foundation

IN PUBLIC COLLECTIONS


ADDITIONAL US COLLECTIONS

Alturas Foundation, San Antonio, TX
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI
Copeland Borough Council Collection, Oregon College of Art and Craft Collection, Portland, OR
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA
Denison University, Granville, OH
Kohler Company, Kohler, WI
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, AL
Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, MA
New York Historical Society, New York, NY
Newark Art Museum, Newark, NJ
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, PA
RISD Museum, Providence, RI
Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

New American Scenery

In New American Scenery, Scott scrutinizes the American landscape from a contemporary perspective, one that grapples with issues of globalization, energy generation and consumption, capitalism, social justice, immigration, and the human impact on the environment. The images that Scott creates for his ceramics depict unsettling views of nuclear power plants, aging urban centers, abandoned industrial sites, wildfires, and isolating walls. As representations of the American landscape, they suggest a subversion of the picturesque aesthetic—the unpicturesque picturesque—and a new, disturbing norm.

“NAS” includes the following bodies of work, many of which were conceived on location and/or with insights from significant collaborators. Each highlighted title below represents a sub-series containing multiple iterations and/or designs.

“New American Scenery, Visitors to America”

The visitor, the stranger, the foreigner in a new land, encountering things that are both very familiar and yet disorienting….

I follow a tradition, a long line of visitors to America who’ve written about and depicted thecountry.

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“New American Scenery, the Background….”

Transferware:

In the late 18th century, blue and white Staffordshire transferwares were developed to imitate painted Chinese export porcelains. By the early 19th century printed patterns had expanded to include images of the Grand Tour and of Empire. A particular dark blue version of the genre became popular in the United States, & from Liverpool, Staffordshire potters exported huge quantities of decorated wares depicting American subjects & landscape. Later that century these were to become highly collectible. … “.

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Albany (Souvenirs & Views)


souvenir plate of an urban landscape viewed through a roadside screen of trees and brush.

Across the Borderline


Series of platters depicting the border between the US and Mexico using imagery culled from the Wedgwood archive and popular media to address the theme of immigration.

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Castle Garden Battery, New York


The Angola 3


souvenir plate drawing reference to inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary who were held in solitary confinement for the longest period in American history. It is suspected that this unethical treatment was retaliation for the inmates’ connection to the Black Panther Party.

“New American Scenery, Cape Coast Castle….”

This has a direct link to toppled Bristol statue of slave trader Edward Colston of the Royal African Company (1680 – 1692)… Its administration centre was Cape Coast Castle in current day Ghana. Commenting on the UK’s Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death on BBC Newsnight, Aliyah Hasinah explained how the UK has ‘had a longer time to marinate racism, to deeply entrench it through the use of scientific racism, eugenics, art, culture, business, politics, policies… In the same TV programme American actor Clark Peters talked about UK racism being ‘cloaked in beautiful language’.

Characterised by a dark blue palette of extraordinary depth & subtlety blue and white transferware was part of the ‘new media’ of its day… huge quantities of pictorial Staffordshire wares were exported to the US in early 19th century.… This platter is a perfect exemplar of the cloaking of racist history in ‘beautiful’ form… The original source of Enoch Wood’s transferware design was an engraving by John Hill (1806) after a painting by George Webster (1799), commissioned by HRH the Duke of Clarence as part of a campaign against abolitionists.. This platter was from a series of marine views made exclusively for US market.… In the original images both ships and castle flags were British, but Woods’ ‘slaver’ sails under Stars & Stripes.

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California Wildfires


souvenir plate addresses ecological precarity by referencing the most severe wildfire season in California’s history that occurred in 2020.

Detroit (Flint, Belle Isle, Ghost Gardens)


 series of souvenir plates illustrating post-industrial city parks, neighborhoods, and industrial areas that are in the process of re-wilding.

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“New American Scenery, Flint, Belle Island & The Ghost Gardens of Detroit”

I grew up in Birmingham, Britain’s ‘Motor City’, where the local economy relied on car manufacturers…. Austin, Morris (later British Leyland), Mini, Rover and all the associated motor suppliers. As a student in the early 1970’s, holiday working included ‘industrial cleaning’ in the huge Austin works in Longbridge… then two summers were spent in an engineering factory in Balsall Heath, assembling brake pipe adjuster clamps (amongst other things). When car production eventually ceased in the city, unemployment, and the impoverishment of communities swiftly followed. I clearly recall the dereliction, then later demolition of huge industrial sites, and the yawing empty spaces. A few years later, similar scenes also became familiar to me in the Staffordshire pottery towns as the British ceramics industry all but collapsed. I was thus well aware, from first hand experience, of the effects of deindustrialisation on urban environments and communities. A series of early Cumbrian Blue(s) artworks reflected the ruin and decay of my home town in prints and tiled panels…

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Fleur.de.Sel?s New York


series of souvenir plates depicting New York City streetscapes drawn from the Instagram account @Fleur.de.Sel that appear timeless, illustrating the small businesses and cultural diversity that are increasingly at risk with the city?s dangerously inflated wealth gap.

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Pattern Samplers


“New American Scenery, New York and Transferwares”

In the early part of the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of printed blue and white tablewares from England were exported to North America. Scenes of the newly independent United States were used in a myriad of designs and were characterized by a deep blue semiotic. Alongside printed wallpapers and textiles these transferwares formed part of the new media of their day. Pictorial in nature, their vitrified designs remediated prints from book or magazine illustration, melding them with floral and botanical borders. By the end of the century, they became highly collectible and the subject of a number of books, including RT Haines Halsey’s classic ‘New York on Dark Blue Staffordshire Pottery’. Published in 1899, the limited edition tome plotted the history of the genre, illustrated by sumptuous photogravures in blue depicting a comprehensive range of pictorial transferwares. 120 years later, in my New American Scenery series of artworks I updates some of these early subject matters of New York using 21st century alternatives.

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Posy Vases


Sampler Jugs


the pitcher, or “jug” in the UK, is a prototypical transferware vessel. This series remixes patterns drawn from other New American Scenery motifs to create new, layered narratives within the series.

“New American Scenery, Cup Plates”

In the early part of the nineteenth century, transfer printed blue and white tablewares from Staffordshire were exported to North America in their tens of thousands. Pictorial in nature, their vitrified designs remediated print from book or magazine illustration, melding with floral and botanical borders. Scenes of the newly independent United States formed a significant part of this material. These transferwares included ‘Cup Plates’, tiny coasters used to protect furniture from marks whilst the diner drank coffee or tea from the cup’s accompanying saucer. Measuring between 9 to 11 cm (3.5 to 4 inches) across, the plates are characterised by deep cobalt blue prints melted into a pearlware glaze. Images and patterns were sometimes specifically designed and made for the small form, others (above) were collaged from tissue print details of larger patterns. Because of their small scale, flaws in the prints or their application are more obvious than on larger wares and they have their own aesthetic.

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NAS | AT MUSEUMS


NAS | PAST


ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

New American Scenery printed ceramics by Paul Scott
Paul Scott is internationally known for his provocative ceramics that highlight political and cultural issues. Familiar designs associated with traditional domestic tableware are subversively manipulated to comment on our life and times. The exhibition includes exciting new work inspired by the blue and white ‘American’ transferware-printed earthenware that was made in Staffordshire during the 19th century and decorated with celebratory views of the emergent American republic.
Many of the pieces on display have resulted from periods of travel and research in the USA, where Paul’s activities were, in his words, ‘driven by issues and institutions as much as a desire to experience particular landscapes.’ He studied examples of American transferware in museum collections and visited many of the locations depicted, subsequently producing up-dated views that reflect current events as well as historical, environmental and social change. These ceramics have often involved a high degree of technical wizardry, whereby visual motifs are magically altered and meanings are transformed. The exhibition marks 20 years since Paul Scott first showed his work in the Ceramics Gallery at Aberystwyth Arts Centre.
Research in the USA supported by the Alturas Foundation.
Research in the archives at Wedgwood, Spode and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, supported by Arts Council England.

NAS | PAST


ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

New American Scenery showcases the latest ceramic works by the contemporary Cumbrian artist Paul Scott, featuring works of historical transferwares that have been updated for today’s audience.

Scott spent five years investigating early blue and white transferwares that were shipped from Staffordshire to the United States in the 19th century. He works with familiar blue and white ceramics, which were available cheaply so more commonly used than collected, to tell modern stories based on his trips around America. He reworks antique wares, erasing, adding and recreating new patterns by reusing cut and broken fragments or adding newly printed decals.

The exhibition will allow visitors to see the contrasts between the old and new shapes and forms and think about decoration and what it means.

NAS | PAST


ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

This installation juxtaposes early 19th-century Staffordshire ceramic transferwares drawn from the shelves of the RISD Museum storage with new Cumbrian Blue(s) artworks. Replacing the porcelain works typically on view in the Lucy Truman Aldrich gallery, New American Scenery melds historic printed tablewares, altered antique ceramics, and reclaimed Syracuse China plates with new screenprints to update early transferware subjects for the 21st century.

In the early nineteenth century, imported Staffordshire blue-and-white printed transferwares formed part of the new media of their age. Collected at the beginning of the twentieth century as iconic depictions of the early, independent United States, many were later donated to public art museums inspiring a new wave of pictorial wares.

Over the last five years, Paul Scott has been investigating these transferwares as well as the contemporary landscape of the United States. An ongoing dialogue between documentary, historical, travel and artistic research has led to the creation of a new substantive body of artwork, New American Scenery.

In it, Scott references archives, objects, the motives, and thinking of original collectors as well as the post-industrial landscapes of twenty-first-century America. The new work deals with issues surrounding globalization, energy generation and consumption, capitalism and immigration, and other legacies of history. The artwork includes antique tablewares re-worked by selective erasure, re-glazing, and the addition of newly printed decals. Others involve the re-use of cut, broken fragments using collage and traditional restoration processes, as well as prints and other works on paper.

– RISD installation photography by Erik Gould. All other photography by John Polak.

SELECT PAST EVENTS

RISD K-12 VIRTUAL CURRICULUM

• FC IN CONVERSATION | MELTING POINT, RISING WATERS: Courtney M. Leonard, Paul Scott, Norwood Viviano, and curator Jami Powell, PhD

• FC IN CONVERSATION | RAID THE ICEBOX: Paul Scott, Beth Katleman, and curator Elizabeth A. Williams

• Founders’ Hour featuring Paul Scott introduced by Mint Museum’s curator of decorative arts, Brian Gallagher

• LECTURE & TOUR: presented by The Pottery and Porcelain Club at RISD, Providence, RI

• LECTURE: Paul Scott, Artist: New American Scenery, Transferwares for the 21st century presented by American Ceramic Circle 2019 Symposium