ArtScene, June 2015 Publication
By Scarlet Cheng
"Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: AMOCA'S 10th Anniversary
” celebrates the occasion with a dazzling highlights show, culled mostly from its growing collection by guest curator Jo Lauria. AMOCA founder David Armstrong is to be singled out for this achievement — just to think, it all grew out of his discovery of ceramics in college! There's an understandable emphasis on West Coast pottery here. It’s not just blind boosterism, it's because many innovations and developments happened here (think Peter Voulkos, John Mason, Ken Price). That said, the show includes many other, widely recognized exemplars of ceramics as art, including work by two instrumental in reviving studio ceramics in the first part of the 20th century, Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach — based in Japan and in Japan/Britain, respectively. Leach's simple pitcher and bottle in this show reflect his emphasis on utilitarianism and a spare aesthetic. Compare that to the subsequent and continuing trend of increasing decoration and showmanship, such as the vessels of LA-based artist Ralph Bacerra. He applied layers and layers of glaze with precision, producing dazzling geometries, sometimes with metallic glazes. His work often seems a rousing response to can-you-top-this challenges. Still others like Patti Warashina use clay to make large figurative sculpture, while Joan Takayama-Ogawa and Porntip Sangvanich — both students of Bacerra — continue to transform the ordinary object into the fantastical. The West Coast welcomed and became home to European emigres such as Gertrud and Otto Natzler, represented here by signature bowls. It also encouraged native talents, such as Laura Andreson, who began in ceramics as a self-taught artist, then later refined her craft under the eye of Gertrud Natzler and others. Andreson produced not only elegant pots, but led research into clays and glazes as a faculty member at UCLA for four decades. She once observed in an L.A. Times interview, "Ceramics is a disease, and I've given it to so many students" (American Museum of Ceramic Art [AMOCA], Pomona).