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Ralph Bacerra


Cloud Teapot

22.5 x 21 x 6.5 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Ralph Bacerra was one of the leading decorative ceramists of the twentieth century. His work shows the influences of Asian art, especially Imari porcelain, as well as twentieth- and twenty-first-century abstract artists. He was one of the first American studio potters to create highly decorative surfaces using enamels and lusters. Like many of his works, this large quasigeometric teapot is made of various thrown, hand-built, and molded components. The vivid jewellike colors and startling contrasts of his characteristically complex patterns are the result of up to ten separate firings, each at a lower temperature than the previous one. “My pieces are based on traditional ideas and engage in certain cultural appropriations—in form, in design, in glaze choices . . . I am committed to the idea of pure beauty. When it is finished, the piece should be like an ornament, exquisitely beautiful.”

Bacerra was born in Garden Grove, California, and earned his BFA in 1961 at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he studied under the celebrated ceramist and educator Vivika Heino. He then joined the US Army, but came back to Chouinard in 1963 as chair of the ceramics department until 1971, when the department was dissolved. He returned to teaching in 1983, when he became chair of the ceramics department at the Otis Art Institute, where he stayed until 1997.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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