I've been on a search for a nice tidy definition for Modernism and for Postmodernism. De Waal's article is an excerpt from his book 20th Century Ceramics. I agree that is doesn't explain why these artists are considered postmodernists. There are hints, winks, and nudges...but he doesn't give a good sense of why. I often think I missed out on the definitive book that lays Postmodernism bare for all to understand. The assumption seems to be that I know what Postmodernism is and therefore understand why these artists and their ceramic artworks fit the label so well.
Postmodernism is defined as a reaction to Modernism. Modernists said "let's forget history." Postmodernists said "let's bring back history but separate it from its original context." In that sense Postmodernism is just an extension of Modernism.
Sure these artists De Waal describes are roughly contemporaries. The five artists (a mix of ceramicists and mainstream artist) in Schjeldahl's quote of Garth Clark were in the same period, and were in the same time period as the Modernist movement. Throwing Duchamp and Ohr together doesn't make sense to me. Duchamp was making a direct and public attack on the art ideals of the day, and Ohr was squirreling away oddball pots he made apparently for fun. The artists De Waal describes have similar dissonances. I'm forced to wonder if Modernism and Postmodernism in general, and especially in ceramics, are not so much movements but catchall groups for things that are quite different but made during a certain time period.
I have to question what Galen wrote "Mixed media, theatrics and collage are postmodern." Mixed media and collage are media and not ideas. Movements are ideologically based but can sometimes be related by medium. Some Postmodernists addressed theatrics, but I don't think theatrics defines the whole movement. I would even say that Duchamp was strongly concerned with theatrics, and he sits in the realm of Modernism. What is Postmodernism?
Schjeldahl's 4 zones are an interesting idea. I don't believe ceramics exists entirely within the fingertip to body zone. For all the talk about use, only a few utilitarian items really enter that realm consistently. Cups are welcome to come even closer. They regularly violate the inside of our bodies when we drink from them. A large percentage of functional ceramics are really made to be looked at from a distance. Oversized or marginally functional pieces are made as Art for exhibition. They are made with more concern for how they will look when they are photographed or viewed from the side more than how the hypothetical user will experience them.
Pete Pinnell defined the relationship between Art and function in the context of cups) incredibly well in this video: Pete Pinnell Video
The simile calling kitschy things to casual sex is fun, but kitsch is often defined by its relationship to art that is currently situated in the moral high ground. The barrier between popular art and Art is permeable. If you keep making something that has gone out of style you will are in danger of slipping through that barrier to become part of what has become generally acceptable to general society.