san-francisco

Sargent Johnson

The Oakland Museum of Art has sought out, researched, and mounted a retrospective of the work of Sargent Johnson who died at the age of 80 in 1967. I had gotten to know him well in the last 15 years of his life. He remained active and his work was experimental to the end. In the mid-fifties he was in Mexico and was excited about work.ing with the black clay from Ceyotepec (near Oaxaca). The Zapotec Indians had been kilning this black earth since pre-Columbian times. It has been used many ways, for example as a hard armature at the core of third and fourth epoch artifacts with a slip of softer stuff for the surface details, but the way that appealed to Johnson was the popular method still being used for both folk art and utilitarian pots, with a hot wood fire, no temperature controls, and the smoke contained in the kiln. The clay is grayish, but with the infusion of smoke it turns black

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