Clay painting, 1969
Red gas-fired tiles mounted to wood
90" H x 8" W x 2" D
Provenance: Commissioned by the consignor in 1969 to be mounted horizontally over their fireplace in Santa Monica, it was instead hung vertically as a wall piece. Please see letter from consignor for further information.
Note: “To be spiritual is to be balanced” — Doyle Lane, 1981
One of the few African American ceramicists working in mid-century Los Angeles, Doyle Lane was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1925. He began his education at Los Angeles City College before moving on to East Los Angeles City College and finally the University of Southern California where he was a classmate of artist and fellow ceramicist Ken Price. In the 1950s he made his home and studio in the El Sereno neighborhood of East Los Angeles, remaining there for the rest of his life. An astute businessman as well as a master of glazes, his eye-catching colors and gentle forms possess a life and order all their own. His red glazes, like the ones seen in this piece, were applied in a thick layer to the tile and fired until the edges would burn and blacken, rendering a unique texture and color onto the tiles.
A dedicated artist and pragmatist, Lane once related “architectural commissions have mainly been my support and encouragement…I used to go around to the architects and show them my portfolio” (as quoted in "Black Artists of Los Angeles," Studio Potter Magazine Vol. 9 No. 2, June 1981, page 19). A personal friend of Lane’s, the consignor of the present work met the artist while working at architectural firm William L. Pereira & Associates. The owner, a dedicated collector of ceramics in his own right, became a frequent visitor at the artist’s studio and eventually purchased a home himself in El Sereno. The clay painting included in this auction was commissioned by the consignor to hang over the fireplace in his new Santa Monica home, although it has been enjoyed by the family as a vertical wall decoration ever since. Like Lane’s other large-scale works, this collage of rectangular variegated blackened and orange-red tiles made in different sizes and arranged on a narrow piece of plywood has a warm and playful air, perfect for a family fireplace. A rogue round tile hidden amongst the rectangles invites the viewer to engage in a game of “I Spy” while the complementary red and dark-toned finishes cast a warm glow and create balance and harmony. As Lane would say “well created and well designed—that was the merit; not controversial, just beautiful pieces” (as quoted in Black Artists of Los Angeles," Studio Potter Magazine Vol. 9 No. 2, June 1981, page 20).
Though known and loved by the collectors and architects who commissioned him during his lifetime, Doyle Lane’s work, and the work of other African American ceramicists, has mostly been left out of the narrative of California post-war ceramics. Since his death in 2002, his work has gained a following including a retrospective at Reform Gallery in 2014 and inclusion in several important public and private collections. Clay paintings of this scale have not come up for auction previously, and this stunning piece presents a singular opportunity for a new appreciator of this unique voice in Los Angeles art.