You are here

Otis College of Art and Design’s Ben Maltz Gallery presents Ralph Bacerra: Exquisite Beauty

Press Contact for Ralph Bacerra: Exquisite Beauty: Kathy Macpherson,, 310.665.6909

Press Contact for Otis College of Art and Design: John Axtell,, 310.665.6857


The first retrospective to document the eye-dazzling ceramics created by Ralph Bacerra (1938–2008). On view September 26 – December 6, 2015.
Untitled Portrait Charger, 1993 (Detail). Photo: David Peters

Untitled Portrait Charger, 1993

LOS ANGELES, CA – September, 2015 – The Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design is pleased to present Ralph Bacerra: Exquisite Beauty, the first retrospective to document the eye-dazzling ceramics created by Ralph Bacerra (1938–2008), a Los Angeles–based artist known for his innovative approach to surface embellishment. Curated by Jo Lauria, the exhibition features more than ninety of the artist’s finest pieces—dramatic, highly decorated vessels and sculptures that have never before been the focus of a major exhibition. The exhibition opens on Saturday, September 26, 2015 and is on view through December 6, 2015. An opening reception takes place Saturday, September 26, 2015, 4pm-6pm.

Ralph Bacerra’s career in ceramics spanned five decades, over the course of which his work moved stylistically from traditionalism to pattern and decoration to “post-baroque.” He was part of the group of second-generation post–World War II California artists who followed the boundary-expanding lead of Robert Arneson, Viola Frey, John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos. These visionary artists sought to use clay in a way that responded to their time and place. Collectively they broadened the possibilities of the medium and brought recognition to the field. Like those before him, Bacerra regularly challenged ceramic conventions, resolutely experimenting with unfamiliar materials and techniques in his studio. His unique contribution was the creation of a new “grammar of ornament” through the complex layering of aggregated design motifs, achieved primarily through multiple applications of underglazes and overglazes combined with metallic lusters. The resultant interweave generated a language rich in cross-cultural inflection and design schemes fluent in optically inventive patterns that played with perception and teased the eye.

In addition to achieving artistic excellence in the studio, Bacerra was a passionate and effective teacher in the classroom. He served as the head of ceramics at Chouinard from 1964 through 1971, when the school was formally absorbed by the California Institute of the Arts and the ceramics major eliminated from the curriculum. The second phase of Bacerra’s teaching career began in 1982 at the invitation of Otis Art Institute. The first year he taught part-time, leading classes in Surface Design and Glaze Technology. The following year he was appointed chair of ceramics with oversight of all aspects of the ceramics studio. He held the position for thirteen years, teaching a new generation of students the skills to become successful studio artists and educators. All who spent time in his classroom benefited from his technical expertise and keen design sensibility. Many former students from both Chouinard and Otis have ascended to prominence in the ceramics field and have contributed to its vitality.

A 150 page, full color catalogue will be published in September 2015 in conjunction with the exhibition, featuring essays by Jeannine Falino, Hollis Goodall, Christy Johnson, and Jo Lauria.

The Ralph Bacerra Tribute Page at hosts more information about Ralph Bacerra as well as the video Art is What I Do: The Life of Ralph Bacerra, a film by Jo Lauria, produced by The Boardman Family Foundation in cooperation with Otis.

Ralph Bacerra: Exquisite Beauty is curated by Jo Lauria, Independent Decorative Arts Curator and Scholar and funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, Pasadena Art Alliance, The Boardman Family Foundation, Friends of Contemporary Ceramics, and by the generosity of many individuals.

Related Ceramics Exhibitions in Los Angeles
Crossroads in Clay at Chouinard and Otis: The Ralph Bacerra Years, a group exhibition featuring the work of more than thirty former students of Ralph Bacerra, curated by Christy Johnson. On view September 19 - December 5, 2015 at The Vincent Price Art Museum on the campus of East Los Angeles College.                                                                                                                                                                                          
Exhibition Programming:
Opening Reception | Saturday, September 26, 2015, 4-6pm, Free

Symposium: Centered on Clay | Sunday, September 27, 2pm, Free
Located at East Los Angeles College, Auditorium Bldg S-2, Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Symposium 2-5pm | 5-6:30pm Reception and special viewing of Crossroads in Clay at Chouinard and Otis: The Ralph Bacerra Years at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
Centered on Clay gathers contemporary artists and thinkers to present their work and voice their thoughts on the cultural importance of ceramics, highlighting the value of skilled execution. Speakers: Kathy Butterly, Yeonsoo Chee, Michael Sherrill, and Diego Romero. The symposium is made possible in part by the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles.

Artist Studio Tours
Tour I: Saturday, October 24 | Tour II: Saturday, November 14 | 10am-5pm, $25
Clay Rolling Bus Tours, includes a private tour of Ralph Bacerra: Exquisite Beauty with the curator and gallery director, followed by visits to various Otis alumni studios and venues in West Los Angeles and Pasadena, including Anna Silver, Robert Miller, Leslie Rosdol, Sue Keane, Porntip Sangvanich, Peter Shire, Joan Takayama-Ogawa, Pacific Asia Museum, as well as other “surprise” artists who will “pop-up” with their work along the way.
To register: | 310.665.6950 | Oct 24: Reg #35459 | Nov 14: Reg #35460

Location: Otis College of Art and Design, 9045 Lincoln Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045
Admission and Parking: Free. Visitor parking in structure on La Tijera.
Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-5pm / Thu 10am-7pm / Sat-Sun 12-4pm / Closed Nov 25-30
Gallery Contact: 310.665.6905,,
More Otis Events:



Established in 1918, Otis College of Art and Design offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide variety of visual and applied arts, media, and design. Core programs in liberal arts, business practices, and community-driven projects support the College’s mission to prepare diverse students to enrich our world through their creativity, skill, and vision. As Los Angeles’ first professional art school, visionary alumni and faculty include MacArthur and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, and design stars at Apple, Anthropologie, Pixar, Mattel, and more. The renowned Creative Action program has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for Community Engagement, and the Otis Report on the Creative Economy is a powerful advocacy tool for creative industries. The College serves the Greater Los Angeles Area through compelling public programming, as well as year-round Continuing Education courses for all ages. More information is available at