Elsa Rady (American, 1943–2011), Bowl, 1980. Glazed porcelain, 4 x 6 1/2 (diam.) in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Jane Rady Lynes.

“Let it fly.” — Elsa Rady

EXHIBITION TITLE: "The Edge of Elegance: Porcelains by Elsa Rady"
VENUE: Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, CA)
DATES: March 21 — November 01, 2021

  • Intimate survey of the sculptural vessels made by the artist in 1960s, 70s, and 80s
  • Organized on the occasion of a gift of nearly 80 works by the Estate of Elsa Rady

(Sacramento, CA, January 21, 2021) — The Crocker Art Museum is delighted to announce The Edge of Elegance: Porcelains by Elsa Rady, an exhibition of the late American artist’s objects of geometric simplicity and beauty to go on view from March 21 to November 1, 2021. An intimate, focused survey of the graceful sculptural vessels made in her Venice, California studio between 1967 and 1995, this is the artist’s first solo show in more than a decade. The presentation has been organized on the occasion of an extraordinary gift of nearly 80 works by the Estate of Elsa Rady to the Crocker’s ceramics collection, which is one of the largest in the United States and premier among institutions for the exhibition and study of ceramics.

Elsa Rady (American, 1943–2011), Bowl, 1977. Glazed porcelain, 2 7/8 x 4 1/8 (diam.) in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Jane Rady Lynes.

A highly disciplined artist appreciated for her refined and monochromatic glazed vessels, Rady (1943—2011) created a body of work characterized by tactility, lightness, and energy. In the 1970s, she began to embrace the notion of chance and “cut” diagonally into her vessels, making them more geometric and dynamic. By the 1980s and 1990s, her works were defined by these notched “wings." The late American poet, art critic, and champion of feminist art John Perrault enthused in 1990 that Rady’s work is poised for further flight."

"We are so pleased to present the work of Elsa Rady, an artist of extraordinary vision and skill, and to add more of her exquisite, enduring vessels to our collection, especially later works made in a visually arresting style associated with the artist,said the Museum’s Executive Director and CEO, Lial A. Jones. "The exhibition is both an introduction to Rady and a focused look at the evolution of her work from arts and crafts to more minimalist, designed vessels.

Elsa Rady (American, 1943–2011), YK1BVPID, 1985. Glazed porcelain, 7 x 11 (diam.) in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of Jane Rady Lynes.

The survey of more than 45 objects will explore the artist’s transition from producing functional objects to the sleek, nonfunctional pieces for which she is known today. Rady studied ceramics at what is now CalArts (1962—1966) with leading ceramists Ralph Bacerra and Otto and Vivika Heino, and in the subsequent years became dissatisfied with producing traditional vessel forms. Inspired by other modes and milieus, such as Art Deco architecture and dance (the artist’s mother was part of the Martha Graham Dance Company), Rady began using a paring knife to make geometrical cuts into the rims of her objects, eventually becoming her characteristic “wings.”

Added Cristina Urrutia, the Museum’s Curatorial Assistant who has organized the show and studied the new material to enter the Crocker’s ceramics collection: “Throughout her career, Rady experimented with glazing and form in pursuit of the perfect vessel. Her insistence on the refinement of color, shape, and surface pushes her pieces beyond utility and into the realm of sculpture.”

Bowl (1980) is a visually striking, energetic form evincing Rady’s interest and skill in motion and weightlessness; likewise, Black A (1981) is a minimalist vessel remarkable for its verticality and sharp, precise geometric cuts and notches. An arresting 1985 vessel (pictured) with wings possesses an exhilarating energy, torque, and lift. The survey includes examples from nearly every period and series in the artist’s oeuvre, such as a 1987 unfolding, multi-piece matte porcelain and metal installation with mounts from her abstract bud and flower form series, Lily. Though early in her career Rady felt she needed to create the perfect piece, she later learned to turn accidents into moments of spontaneity and, as she liked to say, “let it fly.”

Liz Baidoo
Interim Director of Communications, Crocker Art Museum
(916) 767-2997

About the Crocker
The Crocker brings people together and connects them in unexpected ways with art, ideas, each other and the world around them. Founded as a public/private partnership in 1885, the Crocker features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of master drawings and international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to deepen visitor’s understanding of art, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, and an array of activities for families and children. More information about exhibits and programs can be found at crockerart.org