For more than four decades, Richard Notkin has created extraordinary ceramics whose narrative content reflects larger conversations taking place in the world. In the early 1980s, he became fascinated by the pottery of the Yixing kilns in China. Potters in Yixing (in the Yangzi River delta area) used naturally colored stoneware clays to carve, sculpt, and slip-cast vessels. Notkin was intrigued by the exacting detail. He began to use it in a series of teapots that combine the traditions of Chinese Yixing pottery with the artist’s social consciousness. Notkin's Yixing teapots are small in scale but loaded with potent messages that are often critical of humanity’s failings. The artist frequently uses the human skull as a symbol of death as well as of human intellect. In the Cube Skull Teapot series, he combines the skull with imagery that explores the causes and effects of war. Ever since his formative years as an artist in the California Funk movement of the 1970s, Notkin has demanded that his ceramics be socially activist. Notkin displays Funk's low-brow, ironic, provocative, and anti-establishment philosophies in his use of populist and purposefully overt symbols to comment on topics from war to homelessness.
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