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"Cool Clay" acquisitions highlight experimental nature of ceramics
Brian Rochefort (American, born 1985), Sierra Negra, 2017. Stoneware, earthenware, glaze, and glass, 16 x 16 x 12 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D., 2017.131.3.

SACRAMENTO, CA.- From raw textures to meticulous details, to glazes bursting with color, the Crocker Art Museum acquisitions featured in the exhibition "Cool Clay" provide insight into the experimental nature of the medium, and the diversity that will define its future.

While the Crocker collection already includes one of the nation’s premier ceramics collections, this exhibition of approximately 40 works features gifts that strengthen the scope and variation of the Museum’s holdings. Pieces in the exhibition span six decades of studio practice and highlight ground-breaking achievements by 20th-century artists known for pioneering aesthetics and techniques.

Erika Sanada (Japanese, born 1987) is one of many artists represented in the Crocker’s collection for the first time. While her work is often described as having delicate, alluring qualities, the artist’s raw emotion is also evident. Sanada’s eerie depictions of surreal creatures are meant to captivate as well as echo her innermost fears and darkest thoughts. Zemer Peled (Israeli, born 1983) uses hand-crafted (often smashed) porcelain shards to capture the fluidity or firmness of nature. “From a distance, the sculptures look soft,” says Peled. “But up close, you realize they’ve got bite.”

These seemingly conflictive perspectives manifest in many of the artists’ presentations. "Crucible Series Jadeite" by Tony Marsh (American, born 1954) is one in a series of works that refer to ceramic containers used to melt substances at high temperatures, as well as the tradition of the ceramic vessel. Yet the "Crucible" works, encrusted with glaze, are neither industrial tools nor functional vessels. The artist challenges these definitions by presenting this “crucible” as a purely sculptural form.

Brian Rochefort (American, born 1985) is another sculptor who gives a nod to clay as a product of decomposition like volcanic rock, which often involves breaking unfired clay objects and rebuilding them with more material. And, in a twist whereby Dirk Staschke (American, born 1971) invites viewers to explore the space between sculpture and painting, the artist acknowledges Dutch "Vanitas" still life themes in his ceramic homage to classic art that challenges its traditional mode of creation.

Other renowned ceramic masters represented include Rudy Autio (American, 1927 – 2007), who was known as the “Matisse of ceramics” and gained international acclaim for his torso-shaped, abstracted vessels; and Jun Kaneko (American, born Japan, 1942), whose elegant, minimal style is represented in a hand-built stoneware platter.

Other artists in the exhibition include:

Anthony Bennett (British, born 1949) • Claude Conover (American, 1907–1994) • Annette Corcoran (American, born 1930) • Viola Frey (American, 1933–2004) • David Gilhooly (American, 1943–2013) • Babs Haenen (Dutch, born 1948) • Matthias Merkel Hess (American, born 1978) • Anne Hirondelle (American, born 1944) • Sergei Isupov (Russian, born 1963) • Cliff Lee (American, born Austria, 1951) • Ah Leon (Taiwanese, born 1953) • Whitney Lowe (American, born 1958) • Kris Lyons (American, born 1966) • Calvin Ma (American, born 1984) • Mineo Mizuno (American, born Japan, 1944) • Steven Montgomery (American, born 1954) • Peter Olson (American, born 1954) • Edwin Scheier (American, 1910–2008) • Nancy Selvin (American, born 1943) • Peter Shire (American, born 1947) • Mara Superior (American, born 1951) • Akio Takamori (American, born Japan, 1950–2017) • Claudia Tarantino (American, born 1944) • Cheryl Ann Thomas (American, born 1943) • Peter VandenBerge (American, born The Netherlands, 1935)

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