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Jerry Rothman


Modern Ritual Vessel

11.5 x 18 x 14.25 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation with matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

Jerry Rothman thought that there was not enough ceremony in the lives we lead as Americans. By creating his Ritual Vessel series in the 1970s and 1980s he proposed a kind of sculpture that would not only function as a referent for ritual occasions but would also be useful in everyday life. This was part of a trend at the time to collapse the distinctions between “high art” and “low.” In Rothman’s words: “Ritual Vessels were an evolution of the approach I took when working on the Bicentennial Soup Tureen series. I decided to go through the creative process of making ritual vessels in different periods: archaic, classic, baroque, and modern . . . This allowed me to break away from traditional constraints and create a uniquely American form that would be applicable in modern American society.”

Rothman was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933 and moved to Los Angeles in 1946 to attend Los Angeles City College, the Art Center School, and the Otis Art Institute, where he graduated with an MFA in 1961. While at Otis he studied with Harrison McIntosh and Peter Voulkos. In 1957 the assemblage artist Edward Kienholz organized a group show for the famed Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles which was titled Soldner-Mason-Rothman. This solidified Rothman’s reputation as an important contemporary artist in Southern California. Rothman was appointed head of the California State University, Fullerton, ceramics program in 1970 and remained there until he retired in 1997. In the 1970s Rothman developed a nonshrinking clay and a technique that allowed metal and clay to be fired together, innovations enabling him to fire larger pieces without structural distortion. He passed away in 2014 at his home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where in his last years he created an extensive outdoor ceramic sculpture garden.

Bolton Colburn

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