Peter Schlesinger: Viewing Room

4 May - 2 July 2021
  • Peter Schlesinger | Ceramics 1992 - 2020

  • Tristan Hoare presents an exhibition of Peter Schlesinger's ceramics, for the first time in the UK. A group of 9 hand-crafted ceramics dating from 1992 to 2020, forming a cross-section of Schlesinger’s work, was on view at the gallery from 4th May until 2nd July 2021.


  • Peter Schlesinger was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He began his studies at UCSC and UCLA and in 1968...

    Peter Schlesinger was born in Los Angeles in 1948.


    He began his studies at UCSC and UCLA and in 1968 he moved to London, where he attended the Slade School of Art until 1972 and spent the next six years as a painter and photographer before transitioning into ceramic sculpture. He moved to New York in 1978 and continued his career as a painter, sculptor, potter and photographer. 


    In 1993 Peter was awarded the prestigious Tiffany Foundation Award.

  • Schlesinger has been moulding clay into a range of coveted ceramics for over 30 years — some sturdy and earthenware in appearance, passable as ancient utilitarian artifacts;  all obviously crafted at the hands of a sculptor with a painterly eye, influencing his use of abstract shapes and patterns.

    • Peter Schlesinger, Lemons, 1994
      Peter Schlesinger, Lemons, 1994
  • Schlesinger's elegant earthenware pieces come in both traditional ceramic forms and original designs. Some are entirely new while others combine elements of antique ironwork, bronze or ceramics in unusual formations.  Some are glazed, some are not. They all possess a sophisticated and organic quality, possibly from the temporal colours he often uses — shades of green, blue, yellow, brown, and even white.


    All of them transmit a skill and love of the sensuous nature of clay and possess a sophisticated and organic quality.

  • Schlesinger began his career in painting, but his transition into ceramics was not accidental. 'I didn't know what to paint...

    Schlesinger began his career in painting, but his transition into ceramics was not accidental.


    "I didn't know what to paint any more. No one was interested in figural paintings in the 80s."


    In 1986 Schlesinger installed an electric kiln and had his first ceramics show five years later.

  • In 1994, Schlesinger invested in a gas kiln that allowed him to fire bigger pieces with more experimental glazes. This resulted in wider a colour palette comprising of shades of blue brighter than the cobalt blue of Ming Chinese porcelain, greens ranging from pine to lime, as well as striking reds produced from copper oxides rather than from iron, which are notoriously difficult to control.

  • Schlesinger's vases and footed basins are giant, fleshy and rough-skinned. His background in painting most certainly influenced his use of abstract shapes and patterns, although many vases are painted with bold silhouetted flowers and plants that cover the body and climb over to the inside. Others are monochromatic, in reddish shades of earth, still bearing traces of the fabrication of their bodies, the glazing of their skin, the searing by fire. 

  • “I grew up in the San Fernando Valley ... and then my family moved to Encino. That was the late ’50s, and it was all pretty rural. I always did art, I started with private art lessons at ten. I was always doing extracurricular classes. My parents liked art. They took me to shows. They encouraged it. My Dad used to drive me to Saturday art courses [over the hill] when I was in junior high school."

  • “I attended UC Santa Cruz the year they opened it. I transferred to UCLA and studied with Diebenkorn, Llyn Folkes and Bill Brice. There was an atmosphere to being in the L.A. art circle. I used to go to the La Cienega galleries. But I only wanted to get away. The Valley was so isolated. I always wanted to be a romantic expatriate artist. So I attended the Slade School [of Art in London]. I was in London for a decade, 1968-78, then I came back to New York where I’ve been ever since.”


    - Peter Schlesinger

  • Schlesinger works on a relatively large scale creating bold, inventive forms evoking the monumentality of ancient bronzes, stone, ironwork and others materials which hint at a more ancient tradition. Yet they are entirely new and Schelsinger’s skill is to craft vibrant, original sculptures with a living connection to the past. They retain their vitality in both form or spirit through Schlesinger's masterful manipulation of the clay - a slight twist in the neck, a radial swirl of the glaze or one dripping glaze that runs into another endow these vessels with movement and vitality that are at the core of life itself.

  • Schlesinger resides between New York and his countryhouse in Long Island. He has built a ceramic atelier in both places - in  Manhattan's Flatiron neighbourhood it’s adjoining his long-term partner's photographic studio and in Bellport, it's adjacent to his botanical garden.

  • "When Confucius warned against the gentleman and vessels, he meant to suggest that the good man, the superior man, should strive for moral perfection. He should not be distracted by something as base as utilitarian concerns. With moral perfection, artistic perfection is supposed to follow. Yet this separation of artistic value from function, just like the separation of art from craft in the contemporary world, is artificial and misleading. Peter Schlesinger’s vessels are artful and crafty at the same time. They don’t invite questions about use; they invite us to fondle them with our eyes, fingers and mind."

    - Dorothy Ko

  • Schlesinger’s sculptures and paintings have been widely exhibited across the globe and are in the collections of the Parrish Art Museum, USA, The Farnsworth Museum, USA, Manchester Gallery of Art, UK and the UBS Art Collection.

  • Available Works

  • References

    Schlesinger, P., Johansson, J. and Svartholm, J., 2015. Peter Schlesinger Sculpture. Stockholm: Acne Studio.


    The monograph, published by Acne Studios and printed in Sweden, uses materials painstakingly selected to reflect the exactitude of Schlesinger’s work. The copperplate paper, one of the three used inside, is imported from Japan, while the cover is bound in jute cloth made to order in Belgium. Inside, Schlesinger’s work is presented in chronological order from the 1980s up to the present day, photographed by the artist’s partner Eric Boman. It also features a selection of Schlesinger’s works on paper connected to each of the periods presented. The book comes in a limited edition of 1000 copies, each one manually numbered with a stamp.