Green Stele, 1973Stephen De Staebler (American, 1933–2011)
Stephen De Staebler has exploited clay’s plasticity, texture, and transformation by fire for more than 50 years. His sculptural manner was influenced by Peter Voulkos at the University of California, Berkeley. Under Voulkos’s urging, students such as De Staebler explored process and made their own physical engagement with material the subject of their work. The monumental scale De Staebler imparted to his works in clay, such as this early stele, required the innovation of new production and assembly techniques, pushing the boundaries of the medium.
Conceived as a whole, Green Stele was formed from massive blocks of clay. The artist addressed these physically by throwing his entire body into the material, pounding, rolling, hacking, and parsing it into sections. Its surface is enhanced by oxide colorants alone, rubbed on before it is subjected to its one and only firing. The kiln-firing caused further shrinkage and evocative fissures made evident in the final assembly. Green Steele was featured in the artist’s first-ever solo exhibition at the Oakland Museum in 1974.