Biographical / Historical
Ralph Bacerra (1938-2008) was a ceramic artist and educator in Los Angeles, California.
Born to a Filipino father and mother from Montana, Bacerra grew up on a farm in Garden Grove, California where his parents settled before he was born. Bacerra began studying art in high school and later went onto study commercial art and ceramics with Bill Payne at Orange Coast Junior College. Bacerra planned on continuing his commercial art studies when he enrolled in Chouinard Art Institute, now the California Institute of the Arts, but changed his major to ceramics after taking a class with Vivika Heino, who became his mentor. Heino and her husband Otto were respected figures in the ceramics field. In 1959, on a road trip from Los Angeles to New Hampshire, Heino introduced Bacerra to prominent artists across the country.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bacerra joined the Army and served for two years. Upon his return to Los Angeles, he began teaching at Chouinard. Heino, who headed the ceramics department at the time, left the school to teach at the Rhode Island School of Design, leaving the department in the hands of Bacerra and John Fassbinder. A few years later, Bacerra became the department head. In 1971, when Chouinard became the California Institute of Art, the ceramics department was discontinued. Over the next decade, Bacerra focused on studio work and travel to Asia, and the influence of Japanese Imari and celadon can be seen in Bacerra's work. Bacerra also did commercial work for the Induction Stove Corporation and developed an advanced ceramics technique using electromagnetic induction. From 1983 to 1997, Bacerra taught at the Otis Art Institute. After retiring, he devoted his time to studio work.
Bacerra's work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and abroad. In 1998, he was awarded honorary membership by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
Bacerra died in Eagle Rock, California in 2008.