When gallery director Lee Musgrave decided it was time for Century Gallery to present a ceramics show, he called upon ceramic artist and professor Luis Bermudez to curate it.
"If anybody knew what was happening with cutting-edge ceramics in this area, it would be Luis," Musgrave said.
Bermudez, who has been teaching since 1985 in the ceramics program at UCLA (headed by artist Adrian Saxe), has organized the "UCLA Ceramics Invitational: 1971-91," a show of 32 works by 12 artists. The diversity of their interests, imagery and techniques belies the fact that all of them received their master's degrees in fine art from the same school.
"There is no 'UCLA look,' " said Bermudez. "You look at the work of artists from other schools, and it is common to see the teacher. In this work, you don't see me or Adrian. You see the artist."
Actually, three of the artists predate Bermudez's arrival at UCLA. Stephanie DeLange (MFA '71) studied with Laura Andreson, who founded UCLA's ceramics program. Working in porcelain, DeLange created three 22-inch plates with textured areas meant to represent landscape, and also the geometric mountain peaks of "Antarctic Range II."
"Aleph/Bet" and "Particle/House," sculptures by Steven Portigal (MFA '79), are images of the mountain in the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned to roll a stone to the top; the stone always rolls back down before reaching the peak.
Through rough and smooth textures in both works, Portigal explores such dualities as natural and man-made elements, chaos and order. His incorporation of the Hebrew letter \o7 Shin \f7 in his work is "my reflecting on a part of my past," he said.
Susan Shutt (MFA '84), speaking of her abstracted, segmented geometric vessels, said: "I'm interested in forms that are strong and speak in some way. Surface and color are played down. . . . My vehicle is the pot image. In traditional pottery, a pot is usually the same all the way around. I'm throwing off traditional ways of working."
Among the artists who have studied with Bermudez, Kristin McKirdy used stoneware to form tall, sleek, abstract vessels that seem like figures. Mark Campbell tapped his "collage sensibility" for "The Shape We're In." Drawing from ceramic art history and found objects, he has created a nest-like bowl out of small ceramic cups, vases, springs and wires.
Paul Mathieu makes standard functional pottery pieces in porcelain, paints them, and piles them up to form one vibrant image. Viewers are cajoled to question their perceptions of the objects, and of the larger scene.
Gary Steinborn enjoys painting and photography. Using live models or his photographs of them, he drew or painted nudes on his vessels. The groupings of three are in wood boxes.
"You can see the whole thing as an image," he said.
Potter Hans Tegebo felt moved to comment on several issues. "New World Order"--a ceramic, fiberglass and oil piece that hangs on the wall--depicts smoke that could be from the burning oil fields of Kuwait, or the streets of Los Angeles after the riots. "Nemesis," a life-size, warrior-like figure, was created when he was thinking about AIDS.
Other artists in the show are Mark Horiuchi, Robert Loose, Joseph Pinkelman and Donald Ryan.
Where and When
What: "UCLA Ceramics Invitational: 1971-91."
Location: Century Gallery in Veterans Memorial Park, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Nov. 25.
Call: (818) 362-3220.