Published: October 24, 2017
SACRAMENTO – On October 29, the Crocker Art Museum will open a wide-ranging exhibition of ceramics by Ruth Rippon, as the museum honors the vanguard ceramist and teacher who has been integral in shaping the Northern California ceramics tradition. The exhibition continues to February 4.
Featuring 90 pieces from the 1950s through the 1990s, “Exuberant Earth: Ceramics” by Rippon collectively demonstrates the breadth of the 90-year-old artist’s prolific and influential career.
Known for her insatiable curiosity, Rippon’s appetite for experimenting is manifested in a diversity of styles, forms and subject matter. In the realm of vessel-making, Rippon proved an early innovator of sgraffito-through-engobe drawing, a technique by which the artist scratches through the top layer of color to reveal a contrasting color beneath. This appears in many of Rippon’s works in the exhibition, and was a method that many ceramists of her era came to favor.
“Like many artists, Ruth Rippon was influenced by art history as well as contemporary movements like Pop art, Minimalism, and Funk art, but she found her own voice and became an innovator, playing a major role in elevating the craft of ceramics into the realm of fine art,” says the museum’s associate curator, Kristina Gilmore. “Northern California’s longstanding renown as a ceramics center owes much to her, for her unique talent and vision, as well as her determination and resilience. She’s a mentor to hundreds and a trail blazer for individual ceramists and for the field as a whole.”
A study in Rippon’s extensive repertoire of techniques, “Exuberant Earth” reveals the artist’s range in sgraffito, relief modeling, majolica, porcelain and sculpture. Rippon’s earlier works show the artist’s connection to spiritual themes, biblical tales, mythological beings and every day personal interactions. Her innate talent for storytelling is especially evident in her figural groupings, art history tableaux, and Pop art-inspired objects. Altogether, her work testifies to the creative surge in ceramics that occurred during the 1960s-70s, and which endures today.
Featuring small examples of her figurative work, the exhibition gives a nod to the large-scaled figures of women known as Lollies, short for “Little Old Ladies,” which became a focus in the latter years of Rippon’s career and are displayed in public spaces throughout the greater Sacramento area. The exhibition also explores Rippon’s responses to contemporary events, developments in art and the work of her regional colleagues.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a 160-page full-color catalog.
The museum is at 216 O Street. For more information, www.crockerart.org or 916-808-7000.
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