‘Grounded in Clay’

Exhibition Design

Exhibition design and digital experience for a major survey of Pueblo pottery at the Vilcek Foundation in New York.

For centuries, Pueblo pottery has served not only as a utilitarian art form but also as a powerfully intangible element that sits at the heart of Pueblo cultures. Grounded in Clay: The Spirit of Pueblo Pottery is a major survey of 100 historic and contemporary works of Native American pottery originating in the Pueblo communities of what is now the southwestern United States.

Displayed in dual presentations at the Vilcek Foundation and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition is remarkable for the fact that its content has been selected by Pueblo community members. Pentagram created the exhibition design for the installation at the Foundation, as well as an online digital experience that makes many of the works accessible to a wider audience.

Grounded in Clay showcases the extraordinary history and beauty of Pueblo pottery while bringing to life the complex narratives and stories of this most essential of Native American arts. The works were selected by members of the Pueblo Pottery Collective from the Vilcek Foundation and from the collections of the School for Advanced Research (SAR) and the Indian Arts Research Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Collective, established in 2019 specifically for the purpose of this exhibition, comprises more than 60 curators of diverse ages, backgrounds and professions from more than 22 Pueblo communities in the Southwest, as well as non-Native museum professionals.

The exhibition design uses vibrant color—ultramarine blue and a sun-baked yellow—to evoke the desert landscape and the contexts of Pueblo celebrations. The gallery windows filter light with large-scale graphics taken from the pottery. The exhibition’s first floor features a tableau with the vessels installed on live edge timbers, alluding to the table tops and shelves in domestic settings. The exhibition graphics utilize the stencil typeface Dala Moa, designed by Paul Barnes at Commercial Type and inspired by the erosion of letterforms on stones.

Expanding on the exhibition, Pentagram designed Pueblo Pottery: Stories in Clay, an online digital experience in which visitors can explore three-dimensional, 360-degree views of selected works of pottery that were captured using photogrammetry, accompanied by descriptions of the forms and symbolism. The multimedia project incorporates audio, essays, videos and interactive tools developed with the curators of the Pueblo Pottery Collective. The site also offers historical background on Pueblo societies and information on the significance of the Pueblo pottery tradition.

New York
Abbott Miller
Project team
Kirsty Gundry
Daniel Varillas
Michelle Brown
10-31 Incorporated, exhibition casework fabrication
Freestate Timbers, wood sourcing
Forum One, web development
Jeremy Bittermann, exhibition photography
View all images