Peter Shire and Rashid Johnson

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Peter Shire, long time resident of Echo Park and one of its more prominent citizens, is an artist who has long used ceramics as a medium for commentary. The only American to be included in Memphis, the Italian post-modern design group, Shire is best known for his form over function teapots. Since the 1970s, he has used their shape as the basis of extreme experimentation. Shire’s visual wit and passion for color evolved over the decades into ever more outrageous small ceramic sculptures that only nod in the direction of a utilitarian origin.

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Peter Shire Saki Pot As The World Turns, 2011 Whiteware with cone 06 glazes,stainless steel tops 12 1/4 x 9 5/8 x 5 3/8 inches 31.8 x 25.4 x 14 cm (ShireP.1866) Images courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles.

A survey of the teapots along with his furniture and other designs was the subject of an excellent small exhibition at Moca’s PDC location last year. Peter Shire: Drawings, Impossible Teapots, Furniture & Sculpture reprises some of those career-long themes in more current work at Kayne Griffin Corcoran on south La Brea through May 12. Delightful drawings illustrate his obsession with Krazy Kat comics. Many pieces are shown in series. Chairs aligned on a platform reveal how a single bold color or striped pattern can alter the effect of a shape. Each of these chairs has a cylindrical back, skinny bird legs and slab seats but the surface treatment varies and each emerges unique. Shire’s love of puns and word play result in titles for these 2014 chairs: Pecker Eeeny, Pecker Meeny, Pecker Miny, Pecker Mo.

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Peter Shire Giza, 2018 Kvadrat Divina fabric, aluminum, paint, wood, upholstery material 60 1/4 x 40 x 39 inches 153 x 101.6 x 99.1 cm (ShireP.1886) Images courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles.

In addition to his trademark teapots, some of which reference Bauhaus angularity and architecture, there are a number of saki pots. Shire draws inspiration from the cultural diversity of East L.A., whether in searing Latin color or glittering Asian ornamentation, always pulling from the low brow and the popular rather than the high art source. Go, see and get happy.

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Peter Shire Pecker Mo, 2014 Steel, stainless steel and two part polyurethane paint 29 x 16 1/8 x 28 ½ inches 73.7 x 41 x 71.1 cm (ShireP.1864) Images courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles.

As an important figure in the second generation of Southern California ceramicists to deny the boundaries of traditional crafts, Shire has led the way for a surge of interest in ceramics among younger contemporary artists.

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Peter Shire Mexican Bauhaus Your House, 2016 Whiteware with cone 06 underglazes and cone 06 clear glazes 10 1/2 x 23 7/8 x 7 3/4 inches 26.7 x 60.6 x 19.7 cm (ShireP.1856) Images courtesy of the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles.

Across La Brea Ave, at David Kordansky Gallery, Rashid Johnson’s nicely honed exhibition, The Rainbow Sign, includes substantial bronze wall pieces incorporating shards of mirror, zebra skin, active sound speakers and plant imagery. All of that is a wonderful palette for the New York City-based artist but the center of the show features something relatively new, dozens of what he calls “ugly pots.” Ceramics have often had a minor role in his work but this particular foray into this use of clay benefits from the appearance of being both familiar and fresh. The show is on view to May 19.

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Rashid Johnson Untitled Ugly Pots pots. Photo credit: Martin Parsekian, Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

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Rashid Johnson Untitled Ugly Pots, 2018 kiln-fired clay with glaze in eight parts, dimensions variable smallest pot: 6 x 6 1/4 x 6 3/4 inches (15.2 x 15.9 x 17.1 cm) largest pot: 11 x 12 1/2 x 12 1/8 inches (27.9 x 31.8 x 30.8 cm)

These two always interesting galleries on South La Brea are among the hundreds offering new shows every single month.

They are free to the public and like public radio, need all levels of support. Please give to KCRW to support its coverage of all the arts at a time of unprecedented productivity and creativity in Southern California.

This is the last week to visit the uplifting Jasper Johns show at The Broad Museum but others continue: Harold Szeemann’s archives at the Getty, Olafur Eliason’s light environment at the Marciano, Mark Bradford’s epic abstract paintings at Hauser and Wirth, Meleko Mokgosi’s realist studies of African lifestyles at the Fowler, David Hockney portraits at LACMA, Alison Saar’s powerful sculptures at L.A. Louver, Mark Innerst’s luminous cityscapes at Kohn, John Miller’s game show paintings at Meliksetian Briggs, Francesca Gabbiani’s tragic landscapes at Gavlak. Many more are opening this month and next month and the month after. We’ll cover all of it and more so stay tuned to 89.9 fm or podcast at