Color and Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000

Color and Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000

Color and Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000

Color and Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000

Synopsis

Drawn from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Color & Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000 accompanies a major touring exhibition on the history of ceramic art in the second half of the twentieth century. Illustrated with more than 250 color photographs, "Color & Fire explores the roles of key artists and the major stylistic movements they developed during the decades of pioneering innovation.

Based on the premise that the history of studio ceramics can be regarded as a series of breakthroughs or milestones, "Color & Fire highlights the moments when talented artists came together to produce work in clay that challenged traditions and promoted aesthetic freedom. In the early years of the twentieth century, pottery was primarily mass-produced in factories, where specialists in wheel throwing, glazing, and kiln firing worked under a system of divided labor. In the 1930s and 1940s, ceramists such as the renowned team of Gertrud and Otto Natzler began to perform all of these exacting functions-from mixing clay to firing kilns-in their own studios, creating one-of-a-kind pots, breathtaking in design and construction. Since that time, ceramic art has followed a metaphorical journey from the earth to the air, as concerns with utility, materials, and techniques have given way to abstract conceptual considerations.

In Los Angeles in the 1950s, Peter Voulkos and his students upset the traditional values of craft pottery and the Bauhaus- inspired "form follows function" doctrine by creating nonfunctional, oversized, off-kilter vessels with cracks and holes, along with massive Abstract Expressionist monuments. In the 1960s in northern California, RobertArneson and his students shattered taboos against clay as a sculptural medium in the oversized, off-kilter vessels with cracks and holes, along with massive Abstract Expressionist monuments. In the 1960s in northern Californ

Excerpt

This exhibition attests to the vital, innovative, and deeply imaginative nature of contemporary ceramics over the last fifty years. During this period, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's permanent collection of ceramic art has grown large and diverse, reflecting the museum's goal of assembling a comprehensive range of work from the postwar years to the millennium. Each sculpture, vessel, and teapot has been selected for its ability to represent the time and place in which it was created. We are proud to be able to offer our public this rich survey of the artistic currents, methods, movements, and formal and intellectual concerns of contemporary ceramics from 1950 to 2000.

LACMA's assistant curator of decorative arts, Jo Lauria, has worked for the past five years to strengthen and expand the collection and to organize this show, a major traveling exhibition of works from this collection. She has written an illuminating introduction for this catalogue that charts the museum's ceramics exhibition and collection history and outlines future goals in this area.

Lacma owes all of its great collections to the generosity of its supporters. This exhibition is a tribute to the benefactors whose many gifts have formed the contemporary ceramics collection. Deserving of our most sincere gratitude are the collector Gwen Laurie Smits and her late husband, Howard Smits, whose contributions of more than three hundred contemporary ceramics over the course of the last fifteen years have formed the core of our collection. Their outstanding generosity has also provided for continued acquisitions through the establishment of a purchase fund in their name. Many of the exceptional pieces in this catalogue and exhibition are the result of this benevolence. We applaud such long-standing commitment and inspired vision. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the late Rose A. Sperry, collector of Gertrud and Otto Natzler vessels, and the late Betty M. Asher, collector of contemporary teacups, for the major donations of their entire collections. Further, subsequent individual donations have continued to strengthen this core. We are sincerely grateful to all of our patrons, who have, together, contributed to forming this substantial collection for the community of Los Angeles.

Andrea L. Rich President and Director Los Angeles County Museum of Art . . .

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