While a slew of contemporary artists lately have been turning to ceramics, Ron Nagle remains supreme; the only clay artist to be honoured by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Plus, two years ago, some thirty of his clay creations took up roost in the Venice Biennale. These days, both his early and latest oeuvre can be seen at the Chelsea Matthew Marks Gallery exhibition ‘Ron Nagle: Five O’Clock Shadow’.
Nagle’s highly idiosyncratic artistry is revealed in his hand molded clay sculptures dripping with slip glazes all barely several inches in height yet characterised by a dazzling array of textures and palettes. His references alone are highly diverse from Japanese Netsuke to sushi and Krazy Kat cartoons. Always fascinating, Nagle's work summons up a sense of perplexity with some examples bordering on the erotic.
And there’s another facet to Nagle’s rich artistry, too. The multi-talented San Francisco artist has been a member of a number of West Coast rock bands and no less than the Jefferson Airplane as well as other pop icons have performed his songs. Dealers have long pointed out that Nagle’s talents as a lyrist have played across his ceramics. In addition, his rarely seen drawings and bronzes are on view.
It’s no wonder that the esteemed art sage Dave Hickey penned so aptly in 1998, ‘If Fabergé had lived in California, loved hot rods and surfboards and had been blessed with an impudent art-historical wit, on his best day he couldn’t compete with Nagle.’