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A 95th birthday show for Harrison McIntosh

September 24, 2009 |  6:44 am

McIntosh in Living Room

As Harrison McIntosh tells his story, he had to be an artist.

The diminutive, soft-spoken ceramist who’s celebrating his 95th birthday with a retrospective exhibition at Pomona’s American Museum of Ceramic Art was born in Vallejo and raised in Stockton. Not exactly the center of the art world, but he watched with fascination as the Haggin Museum took shape and opened its doors in 1931, in a park near his school.

Seventy-eight years later, he also has fond memories of “Nymphaeum” by William Adolphe Bouguereau, the sexy star of the museum’s collection of 19th-century French paintings. The spectacle of female nudes cavorting in a wooded glen seems antithetical to McIntosh’s classically modern pottery and sculpture, but he says the painting sparked his love of sensuous form.

Today, he is known as a virtuoso of pure, gracefully handmade objects that represent the classical vein of Southern California’s postwar crafts movement in museum collections around the world.

The understated elegance of his work is distinctive, says Jo Lauria, an independent curator of decorative arts and design, “but it doesn’t force your attention. You come to it naturally. He has an ability to connect to everyday ordinariness, but make it extraordinary.”

To read the full story in Thursday's Calendar, click here.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Harrison McIntosh. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times