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Philip Cornelius


Navaho Maru

10 x 18.75 x 3.75 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation with matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

A primary concern of the abstract expressionist movement in ceramics was to explore the medium’s sculptural possibilities. Ceramists often upended traditional approaches to scale and functionality. In Navaho Maru, Philip Cornelius considers the plasticity of clay. Trained within the vessel tradition, he began experimenting with the fragility of paper-thin slices of porcelain that had been cast off from other vessels. Upon finding that the clay remained stable through the firing process, Cornelius continued to push the limits of porcelain, calling the subsequent objects “thinware.” Navaho Maru draws upon Southwestern Native American decorative elements, and challenges the traditional form of a teapot. Its paper-thin walls present the object more as sculpture than as a functional vessel.

Born in San Bernardino, California, in 1934, Cornelius received a BA in life science from San Jose State University in 1960. He went on to receive his MFA from Claremont Graduate University in 1965, where he studied with Paul Soldner. He taught ceramics at Pasadena City College.

Matthew Limb

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