Spanish sculptor Rafael “Rafa” Pérez partners an educated control of the material with the independent actions of the fire. He says, “My work is about surprising myself and the audience, using white porcelain and black earthenware clay, fired at high-temperature. The black earthenware expands, thus creating a volcanic landscape. It is not just a natural landscape because it is directed by me. I have created the cuttings from the beginning, but still the aspect of surprise is always present, because what happens in the kiln is unpredictable.”
Pérez was born in Haro, La Rioja, Spain, in 1957, and, after a relatively brief detour into the study of economics, he chose ceramics as his lifelong career and contribution. A globally-acclaimed artist, he’s been represented in scores of international solo and group exhibitions, collections, and publications, and in 2007, he was included as a Member of the International Academy of Ceramics. His sculptures are largely abstract—while some are geometric and layered, others are evocative of rough, indefinable craters.
Heat is a lively partner in the creation of Pérez's work. The clay bodies, porcelain and black earthenware, push and break free of one another as the heat of the kiln expands them at different rates. This juxtaposition of materials and their properties pays respect to the maker, the material, and the process.
In addition to clay, layers of glaze create a surface that also tells a story of time spent in the kiln. Glaze responds to the firing either by cracking and peeling away to show the material through its crust or by splitting in large segments to allow movement of a piece it once attempted to envelop. The resulting surfaces, while a surprise each time, are anything but unforeseeable happenstance.
Pérez utilizes his understanding of the material, gained through methodical exploration, while simultaneously embracing the element of unpredictability delivered by the fire. The result is satisfying and evocative. Simply put, “My work is an attempt to capture pleasure. I hope to communicate this sensation.”
Special thanks to ceramic artist and professor Todd Shanafelt and to the Minnesota State University at Mankato for their collaboration on this exhibition.
X14: Daylong Demo & Dialogue with Rafael Pérez
Saturday, September 29, 10 am – 3 pm
Watch lively demos by the artist and learn more about his career in ceramics during this daylong workshop. This event is open to the public and advanced registration is required as seating is limited.