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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 sub-culture as he puts it, is Hip-Hop graffiti, beatbox, break dancer and improvisation. Smith says that, “There is a mystery and willfulness in improvisation.” His vessels are inspired by the intersections of graffiti art, comic books, and playful organic abstraction. His work is mostly wheel thrown with wholesale alterations, playing with the form throughout wet and leather hard stages. L’Ocean Cloud Cup illustrates this energy, improvisation and alteration. In his words, “To me the cloud motif and the culture/artistic attempts to capture them visually is a signifier of invention and improvisation.” Matthew Kangas, in Ceramics Monthly (Oct 2008) called Smith the godfather of Hip Hop ceramics!

Smith’s parents are both artists. He attended Kansas City Art Institute (1988-1990), working with Ken Ferguson (see Ferguson’s 1968 Bottle); then Pennsylvania State University (1991-1994) for his Bachelor of Fine Arts where he studied with Chris Staley (see Staley’s 1988 Bowl and Teapot); and (1994-1996) Alfred University, New York for his Master of Fine Arts. That same year he started teaching ceramics at Western Kentucky University. Since 2001, he has been an Associate Professor at Indiana University.

Billie Sessions, PhD.

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