Melvino Garretti (b. 1946 in Los Angeles, CA) creates ecstatic ceramic sculptures and assemblage pieces. The artist’s multidisciplinary practice emerged out of the social fabric of South-Central Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, formally beginning during his studio with Studio Watts, a pioneering arts-driven collective created to serve the local community in the wake of the 1965 Watts Rebellion. Garretti then went on to focus on ceramics at Great Barrington Pottery in Massachusetts and earned his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1978.
Often using colorful glazes, the artist’s gestural marks mine the improvisational pacing of free jazz, influenced by Garretti’s engagement with Leimert Park’s historic jazz scene and its Pan-Afrikan futurist aesthetics. In the 1980s, the artist began making wall-mounted ceramic masks incorporating African textiles sourced from his aunt’s collection, imbuing a traditional form with personal references. Expertly crafted and rich with experience, observations, history, and music, Garretti’s work nevertheless maintains a powerfully frenetic effervescence. His expressionistic style imbues his totemic and polymorphic forms with a lively chaos begetting surprising relationships.