Since the late 1960s, Bay Area ceramicist Richard Shaw has been steadily re-creating the world around him in clay, piece by piece. Shaw’s remarkable sculptures mimic everyday objects with an accuracy that belies their medium. Spark visits the artist in his Fairfax studio as he scrambles to finish work for a one-person gallery show.
Shaw is associated with Bay Area Funk, a movement characterized by its irreverent, sometimes surreal assemblage of everyday objects into artworks that can be alternately whimsical and disturbing. But rather than use readymade found objects, Shaw fashions his pieces out of porcelain, perfectly cast to replicate exactly the ordinary things that surround us.
The kind of work that Shaw produces is known as trompe l’oeil, a French term that literally means “fool the eye.” In order to produce these amazing effects, Shaw has developed an array of techniques that extend to printmaking and overglaze transfer decals, which help to increase the realism of his objects. Shaw keeps a library of hundreds of molds in his workshop, a vocabulary of objects that he inverts, varies and combines in his assemblages.
Richard Shaw earned a B.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1965 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Davis, in 1968. He has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. His ceramics can be found in major collections across the country, including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, as well as in collections in Europe and Japan. Shaw is currently an art professor at the University of California, Berkeley.