Bill Reid

Illeagle, ca. 1982
Sculpture, White stoneware with color glazes
7 x 9.38 x 9.38 in
SKU: 12711g
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'Illeagle' is a humorous and playful ceramic sculpture by the American artist Bill Reid. Reid is known for his animal sculptures based around word play, and indeed, this sculpture is about a sickly eagle: In the stage-like courtroom, the judge John Deer oversees as Mr. Mowhawk gives his testimony regarding the illeagle, who lies prostrate as the defendant against a lawnmower prosecution. Bill Reid narrates the scene and speech bubbles appear throughout in stamped letters, allowing the viewer to piece together the narrative of this courtroom drama.

Figurative sculpture built from clay is a very contemporary feature of ceramic art, and indeed some of the most avant-garde ceramics of the twentieth century come from American artist. For most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ceramics was limited to functional use, or because of its decorative qualities was relegated as a "lower" craft. Starting in the 1950s with movements like Abstract Expressionism and artists like Peter Voulkos, the traditional forms and functions of ceramics were obliterated. Following movements like Pop Art continued to push the limits of the medium. An offshoot of Pop was the movement known as Funk Art, starting in California, to which Bill Reid is particularly indebted. Funk artists like David Gilhooly and Robert Arneson blurred the lines between art and craft, producing sculptural work, rather than functional work, that was alive with humor. Bill Reid’s ceramic works continue in that tradition and bask in the glow of their creative expression.

white stoneware with color glazes
7 x 9.38 x 9.38 inches
signed "Reid" on reverse
overall excellent condition with no signs of wear or damage

The Wisconsin-based sculptor Bill Reid is known for his witty and fantasy-filled sculptures of animals inspired by word play. Indeed, animal puns fill his own writings about his art! While most of his sculptures today are larger in scale and constructed out of steel, his earlier works are primarily in ceramic. They nonetheless show the same sense of humor and joy that has been a hallmark of the artist’s career. When speaking of his process, Reid says:

“My process of working is elemental; using only a few hand tools and the heat of the torch I build my creatures out of thin sheets of metal and steel rods. Even as a young boy, I was drawn to the siren call of fire. Like a detective, I turn on the heat until the steel talks. Like an astronomer, I study faint sparks of light in the distance and I try to bring them closer by telling their stories about life in the mowzone layer.”

The artist received his Master of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. His work has gained him numerous awards and has allowed him dozens of exhibitions across the country.