PALO ALTO, CA – The powerful potential of ceramic sculpture on an immense scale will be hailed by the Palo Alto Art Center during its exhibition, Fired Up: Monumental Clay, June 18-August 28. The exhibition, part of the Art Center’s year-long 45th anniversary celebration, will feature the work of diverse artists from around the country in collections throughout the region, as well as a limited number of site-specific installations.
The exhibition will take over the Palo Alto Art Center galleries, public and outdoor spaces with large-scale ceramic sculpture and installation. Fired Up: Monumental Clay showcases the creative and expressive possibilities of clay—when scaled.
“Fired Up: Monumental Clay kicks off the Palo Alto Art Center’s 45th anniversary celebrations in a big way,” says Art Center Director Karen Kienzle. “The exhibition and the accompanying program series, 45 Days of Clay, showcase the importance of ceramic art and education to the Art Center, celebrating our role in introducing clay to thousands of community members in our four-decade history.”
The exhibition is part of 45 Days of Clay, an organization-wide initiative that launches on June 17, and is dedicated to celebrating the Art Center’s role in providing more than four decades of ceramic art and education in the community. This unique program of exhibitions, workshops, hands-on opportunities, and residencies will showcase the broad range of artistic approaches to clay by both emerging and established artists. 45 Days of Clay will engage everyone in seeing and making ceramic art.
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, and require us to navigate around them. They assert themselves as art and object.
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.
“Scale provides a conceptual tool for Fired Up artists, assisting them in amplifying their messages,” says guest curator Andrea Antonaccio Wagner. “Some works in the exhibition highlight the viewer’s own fragility and comparable 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.”
Fired Up opens with a selection of works from artists pivotal to the history of Northern California ceramic art, providing critical context: Peter Voulkos (who provided a workshop at the Art Center in the 1970s), Stephen De Staebler, Viola Frey, David Gilhooly, Jim Melchert, and Dennis Gallagher. The exhibition builds with a diverse range of work from mid-career and emerging artists working in clay on a large scale.
Highlights of the exhibition include a site-specific installation by Port Costa-based artist Clayton Bailey. Bailey, a leading figure in the Bay Area Funk ceramic movement, will create a version of his Mad Doctor’s Laboratory, including a variety of large-scale ceramic sculptures and found objects suggesting a laboratory of eerie experiments. Denver-based artist and self-described “ocean advocate” Courtney Mattison will install her
large-scale ceramic installation Our Changing Seas III, which addresses the fragile beauty of coral reefs and the human-caused threats they face. Mattison combines her background in marine ecology and ceramic sculptures to create detailed and stunning works to inspire the public and policy makers toward conservation. Kalamazoo-based Shay Church will build on his tradition of monumental sculptures by creating a site-specific installation of large-scale trees made with unfired clay that will crack and decay over the course of the installation
Other artists in the exhibition are: Susana Arias, Leslie Ann Rice Bock, Shenny Cruces, Jeffrey Downing, Bean Finneran, Jun Kaneko, David Kurako, Robert “Bo” Kvenild, Anthony Natsoulas, Elyse Pignolet, Matt Wedel, and Wanxin Zhang.
Art Center activities taking place during the 45 Days of Clay celebration include:
• Friday Night at the Art Center, 7-10 p.m., June 17
• Percolate Coffee Talks: Big Clay by the Bay, 7-8 p.m., July 28
• Clay Family Day, 2-4:30 p.m., August 7
• Fired Up: Monumental Clay Artist Panel Discussion, 2-3 p.m., August 7
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.
About The Palo Alto Art Center:
The Palo Alto Art Center is your place to discover art. See, make, and be inspired because everyone is an artist. Created by the community, for the community in 1971, the Palo Alto Art Center provides an accessible and welcoming place to engage with art. We serve approximately 90,000 people every year through a diverse range of programs.
The Palo Alto Art Center is owned and operated by the City of Palo Alto as a program of the Division of Arts and Sciences, Department of Community Services. The Palo Alto Art Center Foundation was founded in 1973 and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial support and advocacy to the Art Center through a public/private partnership that allows us to enhance our reach and impact in the community.