Ralph Bacerra (1938-2008) was a Los Angeles based artist known for his innovative approach to surface embellishment. In 2017 SLOMA reprised a retrospective exhibition entitled Exquisite Beauty that was originally curated by Jo Lauria. It was first shown at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles in 2015.
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 a 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.
Donated by Cindy Lee Bass in 2017