Duet

Duet

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Cover image for On the River through the Valley of Fire: The Collaborative Ceramics of Frank Boyden and Tom Coleman.

One plus one seems to equal more than two in Tom Coleman’s bold stone or porcelain vessels incised with Frank Boyden’s fluid drawings of fish and birds.

On the River through the Valley of Fire: The Collaborative Ceramics of Frank Boyden and Tom Coleman
Essay and commentary by Daniel Lamberton,
foreword by David W. Armstrong
American Museum of Ceramic Art
Pomona, California
$39.95

Why would two ceramic artists at the top of their game choose to collaborate? The simple answer, suggests David W. Armstrong, in his introduction to this elegant book, is that "each recognizes that the other has talents as a ceramic artist that complement his own expert abilities...and each has the aspiration to participate in the creation of artwork over and beyond his individual capabilities." Frank Boyden, a native Oregonian recognized for his masterful line drawings incised into porcelain vessels, and Tom Coleman, now of Nevada, known for his prowess at the wheel and his glaze formulations, are two such artists. Long established through their work and teaching as leaders in the field, and lifelong friends with absolute trust in one another, they have periodically come together between 1985 and 2008 in different locations to create the rare body of work documented here in dramatic photographs that reveal the vessels from different sides.

The shapes of these porcelain or stoneware vessels-bold rounded and columnar vases and diminutive tea bowls brilliantly executed by Coleman-interact with Boyden's fluid, symbolic drawings of fish, birds and skeletons, reflections of his interest in nature and ecology. Both artists "think through the fire," writes Daniel Lamberton, a humanities professor, in his in­sightful essay about the process that brings everything together-significantly, these 39 vessels are grouped chronologically according to the type of kiln where they were fired: the anagama, the wood-fired train kiln, the Geil gas kiln and the cross-draft soda kiln. Comparing the Boyden-Coleman collaboration to poetry-"the clear expression of mixed feelings“-Lam- berton sees it as a quest for clarity and new ideas: "By building and testing and using each other's knowledge," he says, "the men earned the opportunity to express a clear kind of art and, together, find a new thing to say."

The book is companion to an exhibition at AMOCA (through February 14).