Born in San Francisco, California, in 1939.

 

Education

 

1961                          
B.A. San Francisco State College

 

Grants and Awards

 

2011                          
Arts and Letters Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters

2008                        
Joan Danforth Endowed Faculty Chair, Mills College

2006-07                
Metz Chair, Mills College

1998                          
Flintridge Foundation Visual Artist Award
The Best of 1998, Dave Hickey, Artforum

1997                          
Fellow of the American Craft Council

1996                          
Joan Danforth Endowed Faculty Chair, Mills College

1990-97                                    
Faculty Research Grant, Mills College

1986                          
National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship

1984                          
Faculty Research Grant, Mills College

1983                          
Mellon Grant

1981                          
Mellon Grant

1979                          
Lucie Stern Chair, Mills College
National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship

1978                          
Adaline Kent Award, San Francisco Art Institute

1974                          
National Endowments for the Arts Fellowship

 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

 

2012                         
Odd Ball, Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels, Belgium

2011                          
Hamiltoe, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Sleep Study, Lefebvre & Fils and Pierre Marie Giraud, Paris, France

2010                         
Sculpture, James Harris Gallery, Seattle, WA
Spit Shine, James Kelly Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

2009                        
Bookends, Weeromas, and Flareware, George Adams Gallery, New York, NY

2008-09               
Duo Mysto, Don Ed Hardy & Ron Nagle, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2008                        
Ron Nagle is a Sweetheart, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels, Belgium
Ron Nagle: New Sculpture, George Adams Gallery, New York, NY

2006                        
Buddy Holly Center, Lubbock, TX
Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY

2005                        
Natalie and James Thompson Gallery, San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

2004                        
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2003                        
Dolphin, Kansas City, Missouri, KS
Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY

2002                        
Variety Show, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2001                         
Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
Perimeter Gallery, Chicago, I L

2000                        
Revolution Gallery, Ferndale, M I

1999                          
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY

1998                          
Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

1997                          
Revolution Gallery, Ferndale, M I

1996                          
Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
Byron Cohen / Lennie Berkowitz Gallery for
Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, KS
Revolution Gallery, Ferndale, M I

1995                          
Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, NY

1994-93                                    
Ron Nagle, A Survey Exhibition 1960-1993, The
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

1993                          
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1992                          
Bella Artes Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Michael Himovitz Gallery, Sacramento, CA

1991                          
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1989                          
Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY

1988                          
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1985                          
Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY

1984                          
Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Betsy Rosenfeld Gallery, Chicago, I L

1983                          
Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY
Delahunty Gallery, Dallas, TX

1982                          
Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis, M I

1981                          
Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY

1979                          
Currents 4, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MI
Matrix Gallery I, University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, CA

1978                          
Adaline Kent Award Exhibition, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA

1977                           
Yaw Gallery, Birmingham, M I

1975                          
Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1968                          
Rolf Nelson Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, CA

 

Selected Group Exhibitions

 

2012                         
Le monde comme volonté et comme papier peint, Le Consortium, Dijon, France
Automaton, Galerie Buchholz, Cologne, Germany
Légèreté ?, Maison Particulie`re, Brussels, Belgium

2011                          
Design Miami, Miami Beach, Pierre Marie Giraud
Design Miami / Basel, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Switzerland
Everything You Can Imagine is Real, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium
Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members and Recipients of Honors and Awards, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY
Paul Clay, Salon 94 Bowery, New York, NY
Contemporary Ceramics, Danese Gallery, New York, NY
Shifting Paradigms In Contemporary Ceramics: The Garth Clark and Mark DelVecchio Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

2010                        
Design Miami / Basel, Basel, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, Switzerland
TEFAF Showcase, Maastricht, Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, The Netherlands

2009                        
Electric Mud, Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston, Houston, TX
Get with the Program, George Adams Gallery, New York, NY
Not New Work: Vincent Fecteau Selects from the Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Down to Earth, Cultuurcentrum Strombeek, Belgium
Dirt on Delight, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA

2008                        
The Scholar's Eye: Contemporary Ceramics from the Garth Clark and Mark DelVeccio Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

2007                         
Moon Proof Madness, Di Rosa Preserve, Napa, Canada
California Collections: Start Here, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
The Enigmatic Object, George Adams Gallery, New York, NY
Craft in America: Expanding Traditions, Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AR; Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR

2006-07                
One of a Kind - The Studio Craft Movement, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

2006                        
(The coffee was very slow in coming.) An Exhibition of Cups, Paul Kotula Projects, Ferndale, M I
A Ceramic Legacy: The Stephane Janssen and R. Michael Johns Collection, Arizona State University Art Museum, Ceramics Research Center, Tempe, AZ
Ceram-a-Rama: California Dreamin', Arizona State University Art Museum, Ceramics Research Center, Tempe, AZ

2005                        
Artist /Teacher / Artist, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, Sonoma, CA

2004                        
25th Anniversary Exhibition, University Art Gallery, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA

2003                        
Postmodern Ceramics, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, KS
The Artful Teapot, The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada

2002                        
Ceramic Modernism, The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada
Poetics of Clay, Museum of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland

2001                         
USA Clay, James Renwich Gallery / Smithsonian, Washington, DC
West of Westermann, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, NY

2000                        
Paper Cuts, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Made in California: Art, Image and Identitly 1900-2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

1999-00                 
Bay Area Now II, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

1999                          
Eye Candy, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1998                          
SOFA - 1998 NYC, 7th Regiment Armory, New York, NY
Clay into Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
More than Clay: The Toki Collection of Ceramics, Pence Gallery, Davis, CA; Richmond Art Center, Richmond, VA
Points of Origin: Sources of Academic Influence, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, NY

1997                          
L'Chaim! A Kiddush Cup Invitational, The Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA
Ceramic Still Life: The Common Object, Oliver Art Center, CA College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA
Make It in Clay, Toki Gallery at Leslie Ceramic Supply Co. Berkeley, CA
The Renwick at 25, Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
REVOLUTION, 314 W. Institute Place, Chicago, I L
Abstract Expressionist Ceramics: Myth and Reality Revisited, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
The Third Annual Exposition of SOFA: Sculpture, Objects, Functional Art, Coconut Grove Conventions Center, Miami, F L
Celebrating American Craft: American Craft 1975-1995, The Danish Museum of Decorative Art, Copenhagen Homage to George Herriman, curated by Bill Berkson, CampbellThiebaud Gallery, San Francisco, CA
The Minimalist Object, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, NY

1996                          
Made in Kent, Kent State University School of Art Gallery, Kent, OH
The Fine Art of Craft and Sculpture, Horwitch LewAllen Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
California Funk, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York, NY
Anderson Ranch Annual Art Auction, Snowmass Village, CO
SUM: Selections and Introductions, Revolution Gallery, Ferndale, MI
Robert Arneson Tribute Exhibition, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Fin de Siecle II, (Reinterpreting the 70's), Franklin Parrasch Gallery, Inc., New York, NY
Night of 101 Cups, Benefit for the Ceramic Arts Foundation, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY
Illustrious History: 1871-Present, San Francisco Art Institute Commemorative Anniversary Exhibition, Montgomery Gallery and John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Sampling, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
East Bay Ceramic Artists, Cal State Hayward, University Art Gallery, Hayward, CA
Clay: Recent Ceramic Sculpture, Sonoma State University Art Gallery, Rohnert Park, CA

1995                          
Discards, Secession and Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Anderson Ranch Faculty Show, Snowmass, CO
Spokane Art School and Momentum Gallery, Spokane, WA

1994-95                                    
The Art Cup, Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Ceramic Sculpture, Jan Weiner Gallery, Kansas City, K S

1994                          
Night of the Mosque, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport, CA
Summer Group Show,Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Commodities, Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Anderson Ranch Annual Art Auction, Snowmass Village, CO
Bay Area Ceramics, Bank of America Corporation Headquarters, San Francisco, CA
Shrines, Symbols and Cherished Objects, Fuller Museum of Art, Boston, MA
Here and Now, Bay Area Masterworks from the di Rosa Collections, Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA
Contemporary Crafts and the Saxe Collection, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport, CA
Group Show from the Permanent Collection, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport, CA
The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA

1993                         
93 Holiday Greetings and Wishes for 94, Steinbaum Krauss Gallery, New York, NY

1992                         
Contemporary Uses of Wax & Encaustic, Palo Alto Cultural Center, Palo Alto, CA

1990                         
Functional Fantasy, Transamerica, San Francisco, CA
Rituals of Tea X I , Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Vessels: From Use to Symbol, The American Craft Museum, New York, NY
Buildings with Clay, Hoffman Gallery, Oregon School of Arts and Crafts, Portland, OR
Ceramics for the Marer Collection, Pasadena City College Art Gallery, Pasadena, CA
Bay Area Sculptors of the 1960's: Then and Now, 1990, Braunstein / Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1989                          
Surface and Form, National Museum of Ceramic Art, Baltimore, MD
American Clay Artists, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA

1988                         
Greenwich House Permanent Collection, Jane Hartsook Gallery, Greenwich House Pottery, New York, NY
Expression in Color, Ceramics, New Jersey Center for the Visual Arts, Summit, N J
From the Permanent Collection, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Harbor, CA
Anderson Ranch Gallery, Anderson Ranch, Snowmass Village, CO
OSO Bay Biennial, Corpus Christi State University, Corpus Christi, TX

1987                          
American Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical, American Craft Museum, New York, NY, Traveled to The Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA; Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA through 1988 (catalogue)
Bronze, Plaster and Polyester, Goldie Paley Gallery, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA (catalogue)
Clay Revisions: Plate, Cup, Vase, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Gibson Gallery, Potsdam College, New York, NY; Tuscon Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ; Santa Barbara Museum, Santa Barbara, CA
Gallery Group Exhibition, Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY
The Eloquent Object, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK; The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA; Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; The Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; The Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
American Ceramics Now: The 27th Ceramic National Exhibition, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; American Craft Museum, New York, NY; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; De Cordova and Dana Museum and Park, Lincoln, MA; Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, OH; Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, N E; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
Shoebox Show, The Art Store Gallery, Oakland, CA

1986                          
American Potter Today, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Art Department Faculty Retrospective Exhibition, Mills College, Oakland, CA
Abstract Energy Now, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY
New Views, Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Featured Artists of N.E.C.A. 1986, Southwest Craft Center, San Antonio, TX
Pacific Connections, University Art Gallery, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Sculpture, Nina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo, New York, NY

1985                          
Fired Clay: Vessel and Image, Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis, MO
M. Lee Fatherree Photographs of Artists, Concourse Gallery, Bank of America World Headquarters, San Francisco, CA
Art in the San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA (book)
Organic Abstractions, Clark Gallery, Lincoln, MA
Ceramics: An American Survey, Museo de Ceramica, Barcelona, Spain (organized by the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, NY)
Past Models, Future Shapes, The Sun Valley Center Gallery, Ketchum, ID
Organic Abstractions, Clark Gallery, Lincoln, MA
Clay, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH
California Sends Her Best, Morgan Gallery, Kansas City, K S
Surface / Function / Shape: Selections from the Earl Millard Collection, University Center Gallery, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, IL (catalogue)
The 20th Century: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Collection, The San Francisco Museum, San Francisco, CA (catalogue)

1984                         
The Dilexi Years: 1958-1970, The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA (catalogue)
Preview, Sarah Squeri Gallery, Cincinnati, OH
Contemporary Ceramic Vessels: Two Los Angeles Collections (The Betty Asher Collection The Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Collection), Baxter Art Gallery, Pasadena, CA (catalogue)
A Passionate Vision: Selections from the Daniel Jacobs Collection, Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA (catalogue)

1983                         
Selections of Contemporary Drawings, Glastonbury Gallery, San Francisco, CA
California Clayworks: Selections from the Permanent Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
California Clay in the Rockies, Anderson Ranch Art Center, Snowmass Village, CO
Faculty Exhibit '83, Cohen Gallery, Denver, CO
Who's Afraid of American Pottery?, Museum of Contemporary Art, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
Contemporary Clay Sculpture: The Daniel Jacobs Collection, The Hecksher Museum, Huntington, WV

1982                        
Northern California Art of the Sixties, de Saisset Museum, University of Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA (catalogue)
American Clay II, Meredith Contemporary Art, Baltimore, MD (catalogue)
Twenty American Artists: Sculpture 1982, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (catalogue)
Miniatures '82, Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA

1981                          
Polychrome, Fuller Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, CA
California Innovations, Art Gallery, California State University, Fullerton (catalogue) Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA
Centering on Contemporary Clay, University of Iowa, Museum of Art, Iowa City, IA
Clay, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, R I
Art Latitudes, New York, NY

1980                         
Mills College, Oakland, CA
Sculpture in California 1975-1980, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
Betty Asher's Cups, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport, CA
The Vessel, Delahunty Gallery, Dallas, TX (catalogue)
Continental Clay Connection, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
The Robert L. Pfannebecker Collection, Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA (catalogue)

1979                          
A Century of Ceramics in the U.S., Everson Museum, New York, NY,traveled through 1982 (book and catalogue)
West Coast Ceramics, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (traveled)

1978                          
Foundations in Clay, Los Angeles institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA

1977                          
Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture, William Hayes Ackland Memorial Art Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC

1976                          
American Crafts, 1976, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, I L

1975                          
Super Mud, Carborundum Museum of Crafts, Niagara Falls, NY
Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1974                          
Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA
California Ceramics and Glass, Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA
Second Annual Cup Show, David Stuart Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Fred and Mary Marer Collection, Scripps College, Claremont, CA (catalogue)

1973                          
Thinking, Touching, Drinking Cup Show, Japan

1972                          
Cup Show, David Stuart Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Cup Show, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY
A Decade of Ceramic Art: The Joseph Monsen Collection, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (catalogue)

1971                           
Coffee, Tea & Other Cups, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY

1970                          
Teacups, Teapots, Gorillas, Etc., Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Objects: U.S.A., Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (traveled)

1968                          
American Craftsmen Invitational, Henry Gallery, Seattle, WA

1966                         
Abstract Expressionist Ceramics, University of California, Irvine, CA and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

1965                          
New Ceramic Forms, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, NY

1963                          
Work in Clay by Six Artists, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA

1962                          
Three Potters, Lewis Vidal Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA

 

Museum Collections

 

The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, W I

The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, H I

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA

Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, State Faire Community College, Sedalia, MO

Detroit Institute of the Arts, Detroit, M I

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY

Fond National d'art Contemporain, Paris, France

The George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Toronto, Canada

J. Patrick Lannan Foundation, Palm Beach, FL

Kruithuis, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, CA

Mint Museum of Craft & Design, Charlotte, NC

National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia

Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

The Newark Museum, Newark, N J

Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA

Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art,

Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC

Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R I

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA

Shigaraki Museum, Shigaraki, Japan

St. Louis Museum of Art, St. Louis, MO

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Stedelijk Museum Het Kruithuis, 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, UT

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom

 


Catalog text by Ken Price


Ron Nagle is a sweetheart.

Ron Nagle is a sweetheart. I know this because we have been friends and comrades for fifty years. Back in the late ?50?s Ron and I were like soul mates, both making strange little cups while the rest of the art world seemed to be making huge paintings that were tough & ?important.?  For about 10 years it seemed like the two of us owned the cup idiom.  The idiom is a good vehicle for ideas, even though the cup is it?s own subject and doesn?t need to be about anything other than itself.   Ron?s work isn?t only about ideas, it?s mostly about physical presence.  He has a unique mentality - a splendidly perverse intelligence that includes odd things like rhyming, Charlie Chan, and the number two thirty.  He has a quick wit, and manages to make humor in his forms, which is hard to do and impossible to explain.

Another thing that?s hard is making small pieces that have power.  Little pieces invite you to check them out closer so you can see what they really are. It?s been my experience that some people won?t stop to look at a small object.  But if you examine one of Ron?s, there?s a pay-off.  The work rewards close viewing, being fully resolved formally and beautifully made.  I think the standard of quality that Ron aims for in his work comes from the strong but un-seen influence of medieval Japanese pottery. Ron appreciates the fact that Momoyama period Japanese Tea Ware is the greatest pottery ever made, but he doesn?t wear the robes.  The stuff he makes comes from his own time and place.     

Ron belongs in the first rank of clay artists in history.  Being grouped by material seems odd in our current times, but it?s still in effect.  So, he?s stuck in this category and he?s one of the best. When he?s hot he makes magic.


(From exhibition catalog: Ron Nagle, 2008, p.5)




Catalog text by Elisabeth Védrenne


Those obscure objects of desire

One  does not regard a ceramic piece by Ron Nagle the way one considers a china vase, however beautiful. Ron Nagle?s pottery is so small ? something like six inches ? so apparently shapeless and hardly spectacular, in spite of strange colorations, that one?s look glides over a totally unidentified object. As soon as you begin wondering, you come to a halt and catch yourself wanting to drill through the enigma and lo ! you embark upon the object?s luminous optical power, as though hypnotized. Sucked into the desire to venture inside a world, a texture, forms and tonalities so unknown and unsettling that they resist all reason, knowledge or good taste. Such loss of bearings carries with it a murky and obscure desire to even intensify it. Should one indulge somewhat in that game, he would plunge with delight into the floating world of analogies and dreaminess.  

These dense little objects, bizarre and flat, oddly painted in garrish colors, which pulsate like real little landscapes, but don?t look like anything, these organically shaped residues, these « tricks »,  tricklike in the way of all self respecting art, open your eyes wide over miniature continents, fragments of seas, of cosmos, of galaxies, of the endless immensity of deserts?

You latch on instinctively to intimate visions, childhood and other fantasies, colored flashes like when closing your eyes after staring into the sun? Instant crumbs from Proust?s madeleine, moments of pure emotion. These mossy crusts, these foamy stones and other chalky and porous concretions remind you unmistakably of archeological potsherds left by who knows what civilisations. Cooled off jewels from meteorites, windworn shiny grained desert sand roses, ash colored fragments like the wings of minor bats or the skin of elephants, sunsets over lagoons or the Grand Canyon ? Cakes with almond flavored sugar icing or smothered in raspberry juice, spongy rhumcakes, slow oozing Lolita colored  sherbets ? Psychedelic rocks spiked with orange sea anemones or sheathed in mother of pearl shards of shellfish, pulsating in a technicolor ballet under the magnifying glass of the sea ?

These little objects emanate an incredible light, as though cristalized in solidified cinemascope, the kind of surreal light which exists only in deserts.

Those colored areas work like the supporting frames for painted canvasses, with their borders and edges underlined in another color creating an aura around their surface. Reinforcing the colored/discolored look, the pulsating effect also comes from the granular aspect that is visibly due to the way the paint has been pulverised.  

The mind starts to wander around the famous « freedom » of american artists, hardly burdened with art history, no complexes, invention galore.  Out of our daydreaming and the complex meandering of our memory, there springs another character, however quite distant at first sight : the italian Ettore Sottsass. One will remember his love for Beat Generation poetry, as a matter of fact his long stay in the United States, his return to Europe with the daring designs of the seventies : the Pop colors and mixtures, the fashion in which he unstructured all at once the tastes and european modernistic diktats, in order to follow the postmodernistic american architecture, mixed and served hindu style.  The kind of character that would also love postcard sunsets, discolored by the sun or colored over with pastels or spray paint.   

Indeed Nagle?s work is a true hymn to color : not one instant does one think of a pot, a bowl, a teapot or a mug. No more does one think of a unique compressed object made of all the above. What  would rather come to mind is the sort of « whim » encountered in serial music, a musical variation on oniric reflections upon the history of color. Listless variations, but saucy as well, a masterful display of the semantics of pottery?  

The eye, till then dreamy and naive opens up suddenly and sees what it has to see : in the tiny compact fragments, in the specs of pure color scientifically elaborated, pigmented, painted over, baked over and over like a meringue biscuit, Ron Nagle offers us an astounding series of little « three dimentional ceramics paintings ». Less geometrical, no longer so smooth and shiny as before, but more and more abstract and mysterious, tinged with a more intimate humor and sensuality, less obvious, these objects go on being cups, albeit « cupped out ». The cup?s ear, traditionally sticking out with triumphant pride, becomes sheepishly pendulous and fleshy.

Sensuality has been changed into grotesque sexuality, which, in such a slender minute sculpture, makes for a gnashing vision. All the more so as it is subtle and discreet, albeit in fluorescent color. The cup as deflated balloon. A short cut of a cup, all bunched up. A real « curio », at the edge of monstrosity.

A concentrated,floculated essence of the famous cup, for decades the object of the artist?s doggedly declension. The cup as modest archetype, ever and ever changeable. Flattened shrunken cup, empty of its fullness, of its amplitude, of its roundness, cup that preserves funkily etched within, all the memory of the history of art and the history of ceramics. Like a metaphor returning to its origins, to the creation of the earth, mother-earth, container of  the memories of all events which fashioned her. Clay, minerals, waters, fire, air? All mixing and exploding : and in the minute and shapeless shards lies the soul of the cup, of the drinking bowl that the hands of men had invented.  

A cup, any cup, object of any painting. Like an object from Giorgio Morandi who wilfully negated time by painting nothing but creamy bottles and bowls his whole life? Nagle thus searches for the quintessential painting by transmogrifying it within the most banal object.   

How then not to think of the generation of american painters which sprung up after Josef Albers took refuge in the U.S.A. and who taught fiery courses on color associations. To Rothko, naturally, then to Barnett Newman and to Clifford Still.  The latter, after giving up the importance of contrasting light and shade, turned to pure color, to the contrasts of pure color values. Their painting divides space into color « fields », thus making relief stand out.  Sharp or soft colored edges tighten the color and make it vibrate. Between the late fifties and the early sixties, the painters in this movement sometimes called Color Field Painting, with among others Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, steer into totally new questionings about color, emphasizing its tactile and rythmic qualities, its illusory power. Those are the ones young Ron Nagle discovers through Peter Voulkos, a then great figure in the renaissance of ceramics. It is also probably at the same period that he came across Olitsky?s 1965 Spray Paintings : by spraying paint over grainy surfaces, the latter produced an awsome depth within color. Still today, Nagle sprays his earthenware with porcelain paint.  

After a time at the California School of Fine Arts and creating jewelry, Ron Nagle joins the Otis group made up of students of Voulkos at the Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles (1954-1958). There he meets Ken Price, his friend to be. The experimental postwar quakes within the California artistic and creative scene, are yet little known in Europe. Its famous protagonists are still productive nowadays. Nagle is soon interested in ceramics, full of innovation in those days. Voulkos is the key figure, whose work was long inspired by a type of japanese ceramics, reinterpreted by Bernard Leach and Hamada. He revolutionises the world still very much unprofessional of american pottery with iconoclastic ideas : he piles up volumes one atop the other, sculpts holes, draws within the clay or adds several spouts on a single teapot, in the libertarian line of another genius of american pottery, Georg Ohr. The latter, nicknamed « the mad potter of Biloxi », called himself, not without humour, « the second Bernard Palissy ». He kneaded, folded, pinched the clay and even pummeled it with his fists, with an incredibly sensual and expressive sort of fury, pushing it to its dire possible limits and obtaining in his pottery a kind of fragility, power and eroticism far removed from the expectations of  american middle class amateurs of Arts and Crafts  in the late nineteeth century. So free and experimental were his pieces that they simply never sold. He was rediscovered in 1972 by a merchant who practically bought out his whole Missouri atelier : over 6000 pieces, some quite extraordinary, handles, paunches and spouts all mingled ! Ohr became the facetious prophet, he was reinstated. Jasper Johns paid him homage by making his pots the center of some of his paintings at the occasion of a memorable exhibit at Leo Castelli?s in New York. Voulkos is of the same vein, however he already enjoys great notoriety. He is at center stage, a magnetic pedagogue. He will remain the one who, in the after-war years, has unearthed the energy dormant within the clay. He transmits it, together with the taste for liberty and irreverence, to his students of the Otis group, therefor to Nagle. He educates his eye and sensitivity, makes him discover seventeenth century Momoyama pottery, with all the details of the traditional vocabulary of japanese ceramics, makes him discover and appreciate mediterranean ceramics, from Antiquity to Picasso. And jazz also, as well as those famous New York colorist painters?  A cocktail of mixed genres which make a life-long imprint on Nagle?s work.  

Ron Nagle tries himself out at various styles, vaguely flirting with what is called the fetish-finish style, and observing from afar the drifts in the funk movement, with penises flowering from all the pots in San Francisco Bay. Freedom is there, but also kitsch. At times, he comes nearer to abstract painting (he is mentioned in art magazines like ArtForum) than to popular art, hesitates about where to situate himself, all the more so that the art of the potter begins to look dated, too facile, too intuitive, too materialistic, in short foppish. Nagle, who never ceased to be a musician, jumps in fully as interpreter as well as composer. It is interesting to know that he writes tunes, some for the then star singer, Barbara Streisand, or composes the music for the cult film The Exorcist, thus in total osmosis with the mythical culture of the seventies, with its garrish rythms and crossover genres. At the same time, and before it is the fashion, he pays close attention to the typically California style of a certain architecture of the 20?s and 30?s : square stuccoed façades, strange unpolished and powdery colors, greys and moss greens siding with corals and turquoise. This love/hate for the visual elements of his personal life, this tenderness for snatches of childhood memories, make him an avant-garde postmodern. This inspiration he will preserve for a long time, up until his pieces of the 80?s, becoming over the years, a peerless colorist. He will take his stand observing and admiring the cups created by Ken Price, witnessing his remarkable work and his evolution toward a freeer and more sculptural artform.  Nagle makes a show of his bend toward clashing color tones and combinations, keen on making them vibrate to the most, using his acquired mastery of all the techniques then in fashion such as airgraphics and all sorts of « sprays ». With a virtuosity he learnt while repainting the fantastic vintage cars of those years. He plunges ever deeper into the popular roots of his beloved California. He listens witout limit to his admiration for the inventive creativity of traditional japanese ceramics. He mingles intimately his sense of humor with his rejection of conventional « good taste ». He gradually becomes a « painter of ceramics ». Absolutely not in the way in which young Auguste Renoir painted flowers on parisian porcelain to make a living. Nagle is profoundly curious, he sucks in everything like a sponge. Now mature, he has the talent of being able to filter out what he wants and keep the best, to express only what is most deeply himself : eclecticism, sensitivity, fun, but also an enigmatic and melancholy side and a tinge of terror. Ron Nagle, the former « enfant terrible » first of the Abstract Expressionist Ceramics group, then close to the Postmodern Ceramics, has become, four decades later, a full fledged artist who found what distinguishes him from the others and who obscurely creates those strange objects of desire.   



(From exhibition catalog: Ron Nagle, 2008, p.9-14)