Ralph Bacerra
Birth Date: January 23, 1938
Death Date: June 10, 2008
Artist Gallery
Ralph Candido Bacerra was born in Garden Grove, CA on Jan. 23, 1938. He studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles under Vivika Heino in 1959, taught briefly and then left for military service. When he returned in 1963, Heino had left Chouinard and Bacerra was made head of the department where he remained until the school was renamed California Institute of the Arts in 1971 and moved to Valencia outside Los Angeles. Few remember it today, but Chouinard was important to the development of ceramic art in this country. Bacerra insisted on a structured program with formal student critiques. At a time when education was becoming increasingly casual, he ensured his students had a strong foundation of technical knowledge, particularly in glaze formulation. At the critiques, students were encouraged to see technique as something more than science. They developed an appreciation for high craft. By the mid 1970s, Bacerra and his students, Adrian Saxe, Don Pilcher, Mineo Mizuno, Peter Shire, Elsa Rady had evolved an aesthetic that, while not homogenous did have many characteristics in common. Garth Clark concludes: “The work also reflects the man, one who has a paper-thin tolerance for any form of pretension. So his pots have no secret meanings. They carry no messages. They are not deconstructive, except accidentally so in the kiln. They are not laden with symbol, metaphor or irony…They celebrate thousands of years of decorative pottery and yet, even though they are not instruments of intellectual inquiry, they are intelligent objects, alive with visual acuity”.