For those planning to be in Los Angeles any time over the next six months, Pacific Standard TimeCrosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970  will be a series of 25 exhibitions over several galleries around the region. The series surveys the extraordinary flowering of approaches taking place in art at the time and these innovations, of course, included large-scale ceramics.

So far only the Beatrice Wood exhibition is clearly scheduled. Santa Monica Museum of Art opening September 9th.

Beatrice Wood: Career Woman – Drawings, Paintings, Vessels and Objects.

Garth Clark and Mark DelVecchio have been both lenders and advisers for the ceramics section of the exhibition and Clark has an essay on her work in the catalogue.

Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Beatrice Wood, Coney Island 1917

But one hopes the considerable collection of ceramics from the period, held by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, will get an airing as they have not seen the light for some time.

Or, even better, perhaps the core section of the Fred Marer Collection, held now at the Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles which is mainly focussed upon West Coast ceramics from 1950s-80s, will be on view. This collection is not often easy to access – location and timing being issues I have struck, but it contains 51 works by Voulkos, 47 by Frimkess, 23 by Mason, 16 by Soldner etc etc among its several hundred works. It is the most focussed look at a turning point in the history of contemporary ceramics; when functional boundaries were broken and freedom of expression matched that enjoyed by painters and sculptors.

The strength of this collection, made not by some industrialist of vast wealth but a mathematics professor of modest means, is that it was made at the time – not advised by some canny curator or hopeful collector after the fact and with investment in mind. His interest was first peaked by an initial purchase of a Laura Andreson bowl which encouraged him to look further. Curiosity led him to a faculty exhibition at LA County Art Institute (Later Otis) where he saw the work of Voulkos. Marer began visiting the studio where this dynamic group Voulkos gathered around him were producing the new and unfamiliar works that challenged traditional notions around ceramics. Marer became their friend and patron – important because he purchased works early in their careers when they most needed the support. Over time, Fred Marer was often there at kilnside as the pieces were taken out and he simply bought what he liked, never by name.  He had an ‘eye’ for the emergent as many he collected who were unknown at the time later gained heavyweight reputations. His house was famously over-run with pots and the collection attained mythic proportions. Visitors famously threaded their way carefully through aisles between the ceramics.

This would be worth the taxi ride probably if they have it on show. Not only to see the works by now great names but viewing the collection as a whole, including those who did not make it through to fame and fortune, will offer a well-rounded glimpse of the zeitgeist of the times.

Incidentally, these days, Otis Art Institute still offers many courses under Art or Design but, this most well-known of hot-houses for clay, offers nothing in ceramics, at all. Yet, ‘Jewelry’ (sic) is listed under ‘Fine Arts’ not design…? sign of the times.

Cross fingers, nothing posted yet that I can find, but watch this space.




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