David Gil, born David Goldfarb on May 29, 1922, founded Bennington Potters in 1948, a business that is still going strong nearly 75 years later. This exhibition celebrates what would have been Gil’s 100th year, featuring a selection of recent additions to the museum’s collection and new discoveries that allow us to better tell his story.
During the 1950s Gil built a national reputation as a designer of exceptional talent. His ceramics received recognition at the annual National Ceramic Show at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, New York, and inclusion in the 1955 Good Design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Gil’s slick, biomorphic ceramics were featured alongside the work of such modern design luminaries as Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto, and Eva Zeisel.
Gil and his first wife, Gloria, were politically active and ardent supporters of the Democratic Party. Their political leanings were not common in Vermnt during this period, as the state had not elected a Democratic governor in over 100 years prior to 1963. In 1950 Gil, working under his birth name, David Goldfarb, designed the cover for a booklet published by the Bennington chapter of the League of Women Voters, “Know Your Town”, which can be purchased in poster form from the Museum Store.
He also created ceramic medallions promoting and celebrating national and state Democratic politicians, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1960 Presidential campaign and Patrick Leahy’s first election as a Vermont Senator in 1975.
Though best known for his line of functional dinnerware, in the 1970s Gil created a line of decorative platters and sculptural faces that he referred to as “Artware.” Gil was friends with many of the artists who were active at Bennington College in the 1960s and 1970s, including Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski. Some of Gil’s artware platters are reminiscent of their abstract paintings, while his sculptural heads combine modernism with a whimsical charm.