It is rare to walk into an exhibition loaded with ceramic artwork of the caliber of John W. Hopkins. It is a medium with potential limitations, all of which have been overcome by this consummate artist. Hopkins’ work is bright and beautiful, varied in scale and utility. This work is beyond the worn-out styles of the 1970s with fresh coloration, texture and form.
Pieces are wheel-thrown, hand-formed and slab-constructed. The artist’s raku, rust, glazes and finishes are perfection in quality. Hopkins’ years of study, teaching and exhibiting are apparent in the Burbank Creative Arts Center exhibition currently showing. His work is established in collections all over the United States and represents a classic form in ceramic art.
Scale is an issue in ceramic art. The medium is malleable until it cures, so managing large-scale shapes without compromising form is truly an art. Hopkins shares many large, sculptural, plate-shaped wall pieces, assembled together with shards and swirled colorful clay appendages. Surfaces are tooled into texture, and color is rich and contrasting. There is much to know about the kiln firing process — complex finishes often requiring multiple firings.
Hopkins’ piece titled “Outer Ring” (series B) is earthenware clay with glazes, underglazes and overglazes, with pre- and post-firing sandblasting, supported with multiple intermittent firings. The result is an organic yet futuristic sculpture that is reminiscent of something interstellar. His finishes range from glass-like to heavy texture. “Outer Ring” is a culmination of techniques.
Hopkins applies his expertise to produce utilitarian art as well — items that can actually be used around the house. His “Cast Teapot and Cups” are made with earthenware clay and glazes, overglazes and china paint, which are then fired and sandblasted. The high-luster black and blue pieces look as though they are half full of blue liquid. The shapes are futuristic, with tool-textured handles for better gripping. The artist also produces a variety of coffee mugs and tumblers.
My favorite pieces in this exhibition are Hopkins’ “Large Slab Covered Jar” (cone five stoneware with stamp decoration) and “Slab Box Form” (stoneware with slip and stamp decoration). Abstract flower shapes are the bases for the covered boxes, which are adorned with different floral motifs and intricate patterns. They are practical with subtle beauty.
Hopkins has mastered, and I would imagine invented, ceramic technique. His years of experience have produced some of the finest ceramic finishes I have seen. It requires substantial knowledge to produce an exhibition of this quality.
TERRI MARTIN is an art historian, an artist and art critic.
What: John W. Hopkins Ceramic Work, sponsored by Riverside City College Clay Club
When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and closed on Sunday. The show closes Sept. 30.
Where: Burbank Creative Arts Center, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank
Contact: (818) 238-5397