A Finding Aid to the James Melchert papers, circa 1949-2021, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.melcjim
Creators:
Melchert, Jim, 1930-
Dates:
circa 1949-2021
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
7 Linear feet
12.28 Gigabytes
Repository:
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. 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
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.

Arrangement
Arrangement
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
Biographical / Historical
James Melchert (1930-) is a ceramicist and educator living in Oakland, California, 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.

Administration
Author
Ryan Evans
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated 2004 and 2019-2021 by James Melchert as part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Processing Information
The collection was processed in 2021 by Ryan Evans.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
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.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Preferred Citation
James Melchert papers, circa 1949-2021. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
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.

More Information

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Ceramicists -- California -- Oakland Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Conceptual art Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Funk Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Educators -- California -- Berkeley Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arts administrators -- Washington (D.C.) Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ceramics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Endowment for the Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Voulkos, Peter, 1924-2002 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tucker, Marcia Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cotton, Paul, 1939- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/