Elsa Rady (American, 1943-2011) reimagines familiar and utilitarian porcelain vessels into objects of geometric simplicity and beauty. Early in her career, she created ceramics inspired by those from the Song Dynasty of China but became dissatisfied and started cutting diagonal notches into the rims of her work. Inspired by the streamlined forms of Art Deco buildings, she began to cut even deeper into her porcelain rims, which seemed to capture the spinning motion of a potter’s wheel. The dynamic edges also take inspiration from swirling hems of dancers’ dresses, like those of her mother who was part of the Martha Graham Dance Company. These notches, or “wings” as Rady called them, impart a dynamic energy to an otherwise static form.
This exhibition, the first solo exhibition of Rady’s work in more than a decade, explores Rady’s transition from creating functional objects to the elegant, nonfunctional pieces for which she is today best known. Rady’s insistence on the refinement of color, shape, and surface pushes the boundaries of what is craft and what is sculpture, which in turn has made her porcelains icons of design.
Image: Elsa Rady (American, 1943-2011) Bowl, 1980, Glazed porcelain, 4 x 6 1/2 (diam.) in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Jane Rady Lynes.