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Art review: Gertrud and Otto Natzler at Couturier Gallery

November 3, 2011 |  5:30 pm

Natzler.M709.Hares Fur Bottle.b
Gertrud and Otto Natzler came to Los Angeles in 1938, the year the Nazis annexed their native Austria. Just three years into what would become a lifetime collaboration, they brought their potter’s wheel and a small kiln and promptly reestablished the studio they’d abandoned in Vienna, taking in students to make ends meet. They would go on to become two of the more revered ceramists of the 20th century.

“Form and Glaze,” a jewel of a survey at Couturier Gallery, presents an elegant snapshot of this remarkable partnership, featuring work made between 1945 and 1980. (Gertrud died in 1971; Otto in 2007, at the age of 99.) Gertrud created the forms: vessels of enchanting slenderness and delicacy, characterized by elegant lines and a near-weightless sense of poise.

Otto developed the glazes: 2000 in all, over the course of his lifetime, ranging from the ethereally refined to the all-out raucous. Some are soft and pearlescent, shifting through a nearly imperceptible range of gradations. Others are literally explosive: crater glazes that etched jagged pockmarks into the clean lines of Gertrud’s creations. There are soft, mossy greens, electric blues and earth-rich reds. One bulbous, low-sitting, blue and black vessel from 1965 is covered in hundreds of tiny starbursts. 

Respectfully displayed on plain, plywood shelves, they’re stunning objects across the board. The affectionate tension between Gertrud’s focused elegance and Otto’s restless invention makes for a continually surprising body of work that seems to have a life of its own.

-- Holly Myers

Couturier Gallery, 166 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 933-5557, through Nov. 26. Closed Sundays and Mondays.