Current Exhibitions

Fired Up:
Monumental Clay

June 18-August 28, 2016

Image credit: Viola Frey, Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands, 2004, ceramic with glazes, 72 x 80 x 72 inches © Artists’ Legacy Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography by Chris Watson.

Fired Up celebrates the powerful potential of ceramic on a monumental scale. The exhibition takes over the Art Center galleries, public and outdoor spaces with large-scale ceramic sculpture and installation.  Featuring the work of diverse artists from around the country in collections throughout the region, as well as a limited number of site-specific installations, Fired Up showcases the creative and expressive possibilities of clay—when scaled.

Susana Arias
Clayton Bailey
Leslie Ann Rice Bock
Shay Church
Shenny Cruces
Stephen De Staebler
Jeffrey Downing
Bean Finneran
Viola Frey
Dennis Gallagher
David Gilhooly
Jun Kaneko
David Kuraoka
Robert "Bo" Kvenild
Courtney Mattison
Jim Melchert
Tony Natsoulas
Elyse Pignolet
Peter Voulkos
Matt Wedel
Wanxin Zhang

The artists in Fired Up shatter our preconceptions of what ceramic art can be, challenging us to think beyond the diminutive clay teacup. These works tower over us, consume our field of vision, require us to navigate around them. They assert themselves as art and object. As Jim Robinson in Large-scale Ceramics writes: “My own view is that to work large is to accept a challenge…create an interaction or dialogue—much more difficult to achieve in small works.”

Scale provides a conceptual tool for Fired Up artists, assisting them in amplifying their message. Some works in the exhibition highlight the viewer’s own fragility and comparative insignificance, even reminding us of our mortality. Other works provoke humor through their magnification of humble, mundane objects. Further works speak to the fundamental connection between clay and earth—reminding us of the acute vulnerabilities of our planet.

In clay, playing with scale inherently involves significant technical prowess—the manipulation of massive amounts of heavy material, along with engineering and structural feats that seemingly defy gravity. The grand vision of the artists in this exhibition can be experienced on a visceral level as they push the boundaries of their medium, bringing ceramics to astounding new levels of craftsmanship and content.

Fired Up kicks off a year of programing in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s 45th anniversary. The exhibition is timed in conjunction with an institution-wide education initiative, 45 Days of Clay that features exhibitions, workshops, events, residencies, and hands-on workshops for all ages. These programs showcase the importance of ceramic art and education to the Palo Alto Art Center, celebrating our role in introducing ceramic art to thousands of community members in our four-decade history.

Fired Up: Monumental Clay and 45 Days of Clay are supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Peggy and Yogen Dalal, and The Lennox Foundation. Fired Up is supported by the Dorothy Saxe Exhibition Fund with contributions from Lois and Edward Anderson, Brigid Barton, Jeannie Duisenberg and Rich Hlava, Beverly and Peter Lipman, Patrick and Darle Maveety, Collette and Peter Rothschild and Jan and Vic Schachter.

Friday Night at the Art Center: Opening Celebration for
Fired Up: Monumental Clay

Friday, June 17 7 - 10 p.m.
Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road
Celebrate the opening of Fired Up with hands-on artmaking, food trucks, a cash bar provided by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Big Band music and lots of BIG games for you to play

Creative Ecology: David Tomb

King Tides and Elusive Rails
April 26-July 3, 2016

Great Blue Heron (detail), 30 in. x 44 in., 2010, graphite, watercolor, gouache on paper, courtesy of the artist

My work is inspired by birding trips near and far. Spending time in the field in habitat and finding and studying birds coupled with research is the foundation for my work.” –David Tomb

In his residency at the Palo Alto Art Center, self-proclaimed “bird nerd” and artist David Tomb shares his passion for birds in hopes of promoting conservation through art and science. In residencies at the Palo Alto Baylands, Tomb will engage community members of all ages in exploring and drawing birds and their habitats, particularly in response to King Tides.
Tomb’s commitment to birds began in childhood, and now involves significant field research and travel, as well as studying and drawing bird skins in museum collections. His resulting installations feature painstakingly rendered bird illustrations with collage and mixed-media, found objects and even sound.

San Francisco-based artist David Tomb received his B.F.A. from CSU Long Beach. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum, Electric Works, the Triton Museum of Art, San Francisco Public Library and the University Museum at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and group exhibitions at the Center for Contemporary Arts Santa Fe, the Arkansas Art Center, and the Naples Museum of Art. Tomb’s work is included in the collections of the Oakland Museum of California, the Huntington Library, and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Creative Ecology is an innovative art and science residency program that promotes learning about and appreciation of the natural world through the creative process, engaging artists, art and science educators, and the larger community. A collaboration between the Palo Alto Art Center and the Junior Museum & Zoo, the program intends to showcase the similarities between artists and scientists and demonstrate how both use similar tools to experiment and learn about the world around them. This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Thursday, June 9, 7 p.m.

Artist David Tomb will give a free one-hour visual presentation at the Art Center about his Creative Ecology Residency and his experience working with the community at the Palo Alto Baylands. Attendees are also invited to view the exhibition of his work, King Tides and Elusive Rails, in the Glass Gallery following the talk.

Last Updated: Jun 22, 2016