July 2 – August 6, 2020

Roll Up Project is pleased to present works by Arthur E. Nelson (1942-1992). Nelson’s explorations of clay as an artistic medium spanned over 25 years, and his widely varied oeuvre has yet to be deeply examined.

Arthur E. Nelson, also known as Art, received his masters in ceramic sculpture at California College of Arts and Crafts (now CCA) in 1969. Upon graduation, he joined the faculty, and devoted over 20 years to teaching and leading the ceramics department. After Nelson’s death in 1992, longtime friend and colleague Viola Frey received some of his artwork from family members. They are now in the holdings of the Artists’ Legacy Foundation, which has lent them for this display.

Lunar Ladder is installed in the window on Harrison Street. This modular sculpture consists of metal wire armatures and metal mesh tubes, both coated in light clay and black and white glazes. Nelson incorporated metal wire and mesh into several artworks during this period, including some plates and wall-mounted grids. In addition to stabilizing the work, the metal frames create dynamic relationships with the organic nature of clay, which can melt and reshape in the kiln. In Lunar Ladder, the clay and glaze drip off the wire, punctuating the grid with thorns and knots.

The windows on Third Street feature five untitled vessels. Nelson’s colorblindness did not deter him from experimenting with a variety of bold colors, including teal, turquoise, yellow, and peach. Many of the vessels feature multicolored bands along the top, reminiscent of jawbreakers or geodes. These double-walled sculptures are completely enclosed, and technically challenging to construct. Nelson’s deep understanding of form, volume, and composition come through in these minimalist works. This display also features a vessel with a crackle glaze, which hearkens back to lunar landscapes and otherworldly textures.


About the Artist

Arthur E. Nelson (1942-1992) was a sculptor and educator based in Oakland, California. He taught ceramics at California College of Arts and Crafts from 1969 to 1992, and became dean of the ceramic department in 1982. Nelson exhibited widely during his lifetime, and his work is held in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Oakland Museum of California, and California College of Arts, among others.

Did you know Art Nelson? Please get in touch to share memories or information about artworks that will help future scholars. Email


Lunar Ladder, c. 1980
glazed ceramic and wire
70 x 24 x 10 inches
Lunar Ladder, detail


Untitled, date unknown
glazed ceramic
14 1/2 x 15 x 9 inches
Untitled, date unknown
glazed ceramic
13 1/2 x 9 x 12 inches
Untitled, date unknown
glazed ceramic
16 x 14 x 14 inches
Untitled, c. 1981
glazed ceramic
9 x 11 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches