Ted Randall: Works from Five Decades at Alfred

The International Museum of Ceramic Art on the road to S.O.F.A. Chicago 1997 (at Navy Pier)

January 29-March 11, 1998, The International Museum of Ceramic Art Alfred NY

October 16 - October 19, 1997

Ted Randall (1914-1985) was associated with the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University for portions of five decades from the 1940s to 1980s, first as a graduate student (M.F.A. 1949) and then as a faculty member and administrator (1951-1981), and finally in retirement. Already an accomplished sculptor prior to his arrival as a graduate student, Randall was known during those five decades at Alfred for his sculpture, functional ceramics and his "sculpots." Ted exemplified the Alfred focus with his harmonious balancing between sculpture, vessels and functional pottery.

Sofa Sculpture Object and Functional Art Exposition Chicago 1997 PosterTed had created sculpture in bronze, clay and other media prior to his graduate student days at Alfred, but during the late 1940s his graduate work consisted of functional pottery -- casseroles, decanters and cups, and bowls. However, while functional, his purely functional forms can also be viewed as sculptural in spirit -- with graceful lines and rich glazes.

About his life in the 1940s Ted wrote, "For me, the Forties were a decade of intense change. I had earned a B.F.A. at Yale, married, opened a sculpture studio in Brooklyn, got professionally involved in two large plaster jobs for the World's Fair, went broke, joined the Army, begot two sons, discovered modern art two generations late and returned to college for the M.F.A. degree at Alfred in 1949." [1]

In the 1950s Ted was producing volumes of strong work. During his years focused as an administrator at Alfred, roughly the early 1960s to mid-1970s, Ted's production of artwork decreased dramatically. "Chosen as Charles Harder's successor, Ted Randall led the school through its greatest expansion -- into becoming a full school of art and design with majors offered in all areas of art." [2] During this same time period, under Ted's leadership, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) was founded.

Then again in the late 1970s until his death in 1985, Ted focused once again on the creation of his own personal statements in clay. "From the 1970s onward, Ted's work became more sculptural." [3] His friend and colleague Val Cushing has described Ted's later large decorative vessels as work having "an atmosphere of enduring time and regal presence. They carry a message of pottery in an envelope of sculpture. These vessel forms play on contrasts. They are massive with delicate features. They are rich and dark in color, yet have cool and resonant overtones. They are heavy to lift, but seem to float in space. They hold our interest and they speak of eloquence, sensitivity and coherence." [4]

According to Val Cushing, when Ted died he "was in his full creative and imaginative power" and "he was producing some of the best work of his life." [5] In 1984, Ted wrote "I have stopped trying for the pot that has never been seen before and continue to try for the pot that recalls all pottery. I keep looking for that degree of innovation that refurbishes, renews, connects to old meanings, allows the fun of invention, but looks back at the past with respect, understanding and affection, opening the way for a continuous recreation of form." [6] It is interesting that his later work is reminiscent of ancient Chinese ritual bronze forms. He created works that recall all cultures, not just recalling "all pottery."

This exhibition of works by ceramic artist Ted Randall spans five decades, yet there is a common spirit which permeates his work which can be viewed and sensed during a close examination of his work.

[1] Ted Randall, "The University Impact on Ceramics: A Personal Perspective of the Last Five Decades," NCECA Journal, Volume 5, 1984.

[2] Val M. Cushing, "Introduction," for exhibition catalogue, Ted Randall: A Retrospective, April 8-September 6, 1987, sponsored by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts at the Lowe Art Gallery, Syracuse University).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ted Randall, "Being and Meaning," Ceramics Monthly, November, 1984.