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Object Name: Frog
Artist: Jorge Wilmot (b. Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, 1928/1929; active Los Naguales workshop, Tonal?, Jalisco, 1950s-1980s)
Place of Origin: Tonal, Jalisco, Mexico
Dimensions: H: 35.50 cm, W: 36.80 cm, D: 39.70 cm
Medium/Materials: Terracotta, glaze, gold leaf
Credit Line: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Lenore Hoag Mulryan.
Accession Number: X2009.2.1
This ceramic frog, prizewinner at the Grenoble Bicentinnal Ceramic Competition in 1982, is part of the lively stoneware bestiary created by the collaboration of designer Jorge Wilmot, sculptor Antonio Ramirez, and painter Porfirio Reyes. The surface treatment is an adaptation of the chun Yao glaze Wilmot first saw in Germany; here it is triple fired in thin layers to achieve a deep glassy surface.
These creatures portrayed in clay are described by their makers as naguales, animal spirit counterparts of humans whose powerful force can be invoked for good or evil. The nagual is both guardian and trickster-a kind of shape-shifter who transforms people into animals and crosses worlds. The concept of the nagual dates back some three millennia and lives on today throughout Mexico as well as areas of the United States.
The town of Tonal has long been known for its pottery traditions, and most notable are those works ornamented with, or in the shape of, animals. The 1950s saw an especially vibrant resurgence of ceramic arts with the vision and entrepreneurship of potter Jorge Wilmot, who established the Los Naguales pottery workshop and museum in 1958. Wilmot and others merged European, Asian, and indigenous imagery and techniques and used seventeenth-century colonial export pots and early twentieth-century models as points of departure for low-fire pottery and stoneware ceramic pieces. With consummate skill and creative invention, local potters have transformed these approaches and reinterpreted iconographies for new purposes.
Gallery text, Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2009