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Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman

LAGUNA BEACH, CALIFORNIA.- The Laguna Art Museum presents “Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman.” Artist Jerry Rothman is part teacher, part sculptor, part potter, and all rebel.  Rothman has spent the majority of his fifty years making art that challenges and pushes the limits of what he sees as comfortable and mundane. While others were conforming to the sleek, stylized, and cold intellectualism of Minimalist art which was emerging as dominant in the 1960’s, Rothman sought to infuse his work with a warmth that invoked humanism, challenging the style of the time and questioning the norms of the day. 

In her essay from the exhibition’s accompanying book, guest curator Susan Peterson comments on how Rothman’s, “continual questioning [makes] finding answers essential.”  He began this quest through his training under the instruction of Peter Voulkos at the Otis Art Institute in the late 1950’s.  Rothman was an active member of  the "Otis Group," which included other well-known California ceramists such as Billy Al Bengston, Ken Price, John Mason, and Paul Soldner. Rothman was an integral member of this group which ushered in the, "Ceramics Revolution," revitalizing and revolutionizing modern American ceramics. 

Through Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman, the curatorial team including Susan Peterson, guest curator; Mike McGee, guest curator; Tyler Stallings, LAM curator of exhibitions; and Dana Solow, LAM exhibition coordinator, present the first retrospective exhibition examining this internationally-acclaimed artist. This exhibition will explore the work of Rothman from his beginnings at Otis in the early 1950’s through his present day work. 

Organized by Laguna Art Museum and California State University Fullerton Grand Central Art Center, the exhibition at Laguna Art Museum will be up until February 29, 2004, and will cover work from 1956 to 1997. The chronology of the work will pick up at Grand Central Art Center, ending with 2003, where the exhibition runs November 1, 2003 to January 11, 2004.  A 164-page color book, with an introduction by Garth Clark, has been published in conjunction with the exhibition.  Major support was provided by the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts Foundation and the City of Laguna Beach. 

Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman explores the fine art ceramics of Rothman through a chronological journey of the various locations where Rothman has worked and been inspired.  The "Early Years," covers Rothman’s first contact with clay and the explosive innovations that he created while still in school.  Seen as one of the most important achievements in vessel making during the 1950’s and 60’s, Rothman’s first major series "Sky Pots," are well represented.  “Japan 1958-60,” looks at the two-year period Rothman spent in Japan working on commercial and fine art ceramics and exploring the strong traditions of ceramics in Japanese culture. “Paramount" delves into an entrepreneurial and expansive period in his life. With a strong commercial background as well as exceptional artistic skill, Rothman, along with others, were able to mass-market ceramics to a wider audience. In "Towne Avenue" we see Rothman truly beginning to attain his mature style. During this period he created the Bauhaus-Baroque pieces for which he has become well known. “Sun Valley Drive, Laguna Beach" shows Rothman continuing to seek challenge and change in his work. In Laguna Beach, Rothman created some of his most prolific work, exploring sculpture with a strong socio-political edge as well as developing several new series including “Bay Views,” “Views from the Deck” and a return to “Sky Pots.” 

A mentor by nature, Rothman has affected many people with his ideas and his teaching. Discourse and dialogue are his tools, and with them he has challenged, and in the process changed, minds. In the essay, “Maverick Mud” included in the book Feat of Clay, Garth Clark best describes Rothman as, “one of [the] most restless, skeptical and authentic iconoclasts,” in art.   At the age of seventy, Rothman is not even close to slowing down or giving in. Still as illusive of being labeled as ever, Rothman continues to sculpt, giving the art world one triumphant masterpiece after another.  

It is only fitting that this exhibition would take place at the Laguna Art Museum and California State University Fullerton Grand Central Art Center.  Rothman, a longtime resident of Laguna Beach and California State University Fullerton ceramics professor for 26 years, is thoroughly celebrated and admired at these two institutions. It is of great importance that Laguna Beach, a town distinguished by it diverse and creative artistic population recognize and salute one of its own for his accomplishments in the world of fine arts and his contributions to ceramic sculpture. 

About the Book: Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman, is also the title of the book created in conjunction with the exhibition through the collaboration of the Laguna Art Museum staff, and guest curator Susan Peterson (ISBN: 0-940872-29-3).  The 164-page book includes 134 color images, and 150 black and white images as well as three essays exploring various periods of Rothman’s work. The essayists include Garth Clark, cofounder of the Garth Clark Gallery in New York City and author of numerous books on ceramics, such as American Ceramics, 1876 to the Present and A Century of Ceramics in the United States, 1879-1979; Susan Peterson, a guest curator of the exhibition, and author of numerous books, including The Craft and Art of Clay and Contemporary Ceramics; and Mike McGee, a guest curator, facilitator of the California State University Fullerton Grand Central Art Center and professor of art at the California State University Fullerton. The book has been designed by Jerry Samuelson, Dean of the School of Arts at California State University Fullerton. Feat of Clay: Five Decades of Jerry Rothman can be purchased at the Laguna Art Museum Store. For more information about book purchases, please call Laguna Art Museum 949.494.8971 extension 206.

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