Focusing on the work of Black potters in the 19th-century American South, the MFA Boston’s Hear Me Now exhibition presents approximately 50 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War, together with contemporary responses. Join curator and Chair, Art of the Americas Ethan Lasser to explore this story about art and enslavement – and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the decades before the Civil War. The exhibition features many objects never before seen outside of the South, bringing together monumental storage jars by the enslaved and literate potter and poet Dave or David Drake (about 1800–about 1870) with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and powerful face vessels by unrecorded makers.
It also links past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice resonates with the Edgefield story. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, and Robert Pruitt, have contributed to the show. Working primarily in clay, these artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
The show will run March 4 – July 9, 2023 at the MFA Boston.
--Ethan W. Lasser is the John Moors Cabot Chair of the Arts of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He leads the curatorial team responsible for the Museum's renowned collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts from across North, Central and South America, ancient to modern (Copley to Kahlo). A curator, scholar and convenor, Lasser has contributed to exhibitions and publications on a range of American art topics. Recent projects at the MFA include Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, Philip Guston: Now, and the reinstallation of the MFA’s 20th-century Americas galleries. In his prior positions at the Harvard Art Museums and the Chipstone Foundation, Lasser curated exhibitions on collecting in early America, 19th century African-American art (with artist Theaster Gates, Jr.) and the journalistic eye of Winslow Homer. He received his PhD from Yale University, and graduated from Williams College, where he is currently a Trustee.