the autio collection: rudy & lela

07.29.2021 – 10.03.2021

Opening July 29, 2021 | Montana Gallery

The Yellowstone Art Museum is proud to feature one of the largest exhibitions featuring the work of both Rudy and Lela Autio. The exhibition will feature ceramics, prints, drawings, paintings, and mixed-media work, some of which have never been publically displayed together. From public to personal, the spotlight is on two of Montana’s celebrated early modernists and their profound influence in the region’s arts.

Born in Butte and Great Falls, respectively, Rudy and Lela Autio lived in Montana throughout most of their careers. They were co-founders of the Archie Bray Ceramics Foundation as well as the first artists-in-residence. In 1957, Rudy would become the head of Ceramics at the University of Montana, a position he would keep for 28 years. Lela received an MA in paint ing and drawing from the University of Montana in 1961 where she was a student of Frances Senska. Over their decades-long careers, both artists would be awarded various accolades, including Rudy receiving the first Montana Arts Council’s Governor’s Arts Award in 1981. Lela would later receive the award in 2015, one year before her death.

While Rudy’s best known work is figurative ceramic vessels, he has worked in a variety of materials and other media. In addition to commissions in ceramic relief and tile murals, he has worked in bronze, concrete, glass, fabricated metal sculpture, and design of colorful tapestries. Lela Autio started as a painter but moved to other mediums, such as abstract soft sculptural works. A technique she pioneered before any artist in the country gained wide recognition in the medium. Over her life she created objects, usually wall hangings, and sculptural assemblages made from fabric, Plexiglas, Mylar, and plastic. Rudy also credited Lisa with his introduction to Matisse, which would influence the three dimensional decor he added to his ceramic vessels.

Both powerful artists in their own right, this exhibition will explore each artist’s individual contribution to the development of Montana Modernism, as well as their influence on each other’s artistic practice.


exhibition sponsors

supporting sponsors:
Diane Boyer Jerhoff
Gareld Krieg

contributing sponsors:
Alex & Andrea Heyneman
Linda Snider