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Malcolm Mobutu Smith

American, b. 1969

L'Ocean Cloud Cup

Stoneware, slip, and glaze
5.5 x 11 x 6 in.
Gift of the Billie Sessions Ceramic Acquisition Fund

Malcolm Mobutu Smith’s background, or “aesthetic subculture,” as he puts it, is an amalgam of hip-hop, graffiti, comic books, break dancing, and playful organic abstraction. His work is mostly wheel-thrown, with wholesale alterations as he plays with the form throughout wet and leather-hard stages. The Cloud Cup displays the energy of such improvisation and alteration. Matthew Kangas, in Ceramics Monthly, called Smith the godfather of hip-hop ceramics.

Smith’s parents are both artists. He attended Kansas City Art Institute (1988–90), working with Ken Ferguson (see Ferguson’s 1968 Bottle); then Pennsylvania State University (1991– 94) for his BFA, where he studied with Chris Staley (see Staley’s 1988 Bowl and Teapot); and finally, Alfred University, New York (1994–96), for his MFA. That same year he began teaching ceramics at Western Kentucky University. Since 2001 he has been an associate professor at Indiana University.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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