August 28, 2023
What do skateboarding and ceramics have in common? Artist and avid skater Brock DeBoer discovered the medium as a teenager during a requisite stint in summer school, and he latched on to learning something new. “When I sat at the potter’s wheel, I was challenging myself almost the same way as I did skateboarding,” the Los Angeles-based artist says. “Like, okay, next one is gonna be taller or wider, or I’m going to make this shape I saw in a book, and almost overnight, I had found something that would change my life.”
DeBoer attended ceramics classes in community college while he was still in high school, and as a student at the Kansas City Art Institute, he was introduced to porcelain. It sparked a practice he has pursued since. Portraying objects we typically associate with heavy use, like sneakers, radios, and basketballs, the artist elicits a playful tension between fragility and function. “The subjects, such as the sneakers, have a shelf life before the soles crumble and bubbles pop, and having the ability to preserve them and give them a new life is interesting to me,” he says.
Each piece’s decor harkens back to popular traditions in pottery like blue-and-white Chinese porcelain, which emerged in the 14th century and was wildly popular in Europe, spurring subsequent styles like Royal Delft. “Adding this surface decoration also folds a layer of history into the sculptures, which I think is even more impactful when on these common objects,” he says.
DeBoer chooses everyday, recognizable items as a way to emphasize the medium itself. “Presenting something familiar allows the viewer to experience and be absorbed in the exactness of the sculpture before reading too much into it,” he says. “There’s a challenge to capturing objects like this. And in this way, because there is no room for shortcuts, every detail has to be perfect.”
Recently, DeBoer has been learning glass casting and is looking forward to incorporating new techniques into his work, along with creating larger-scale installations inspired by his time in L.A. See more on his website, and follow updates on Instagram. You might also enjoy Brendan Lee Satish Tang’s porcelain-inspired drawings or Helena Hauss’ Delft-style weaponry.
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