Daily Art Moment: Ron Nagle

Image description: Fortgang, Ron Nagle, 4 ¾ x 4 ¾ x 4 inches, earthenware with overglaze. A small, bright orange sculpture featuring a circular “fin” behind a curled, finger-like appendage. The fin stands about twice as high as the crooked finger that ends in a point. The appendage appears to have several joints like a human finger with folds or wrinkles where it bends. The base widens slightly and appears rounded. The rough, craggy surface of the sculpture shows lighter highlights amid the deeper orange shadows.

“Diabolically beautiful.” “Ridiculously seductive.” “Subversively beautiful.” These are just a few reactions to Ron Nagle’s small scale ceramic sculptures. This photograph shows only a glimmer of the iridescent color and craggy surface of Fortgang. The scale feels off too—it seems like it should be bigger, more weighty, but the work is not even 5 inches tall. Fortgang is part of a series called Thin Fins. This group of handbuilt ceramic sculptures feature a thin upright slab, either square or circular, that acts like a backdrop (the fin, it seems) for a coiled piece placed in front of it. This part may be curvilinear, may be bent awkwardly, may be suggestive of a body part or an excretion. The shimmer of color and the weirdness of the shapes seem to belong to another world. In the words of the artist: “The main thing I want is that the work makes people feel something they haven’t felt before.”

Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Ron Nagle (American, born 1939), Fortgang, 2002. Earthenware with overglaze. Gift of a private donor, 2013.8.124 © Ron Nagle

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