The Sea Within the Land 1980-2019

Selected Kiln Documentation & Photographic Installations / Recent Ceramic Ships

Anglim Gilbert Gallery, Gallery 200, San Francisco, CA
May 4 to June 1, 2019

Upper left: Video from 8mm orginal: Prairie Starfish/Glacial Epoch, 1980; Collision: Lava Ship/Trellis Ship, 1984; Wave Ship (of Fire), 1984

Upper right: Land/Sea Ships, 2019

Lower left: Robe I, 1995; Robe II, 1995

Lower right: wall - Landscape Projection (for an Unknown Window), No. 8, 2001; floor/wall - Slump (Orchard) I, 1997

Gallery Press Release:

Anglim Gilbert Gallery is pleased to present John Roloff: The Sea Within the Land 1980 –2019, Selected Kiln Documentation & Photographic Installations/Recent Ceramic Ships. This retrospective exhibition will survey Roloff's decades-long investigation of geologic time, sites, and other natural phenomena. Utilizing a cross-disciplinary approach to ceramics and performance, his work incorporates the earth and life sciences with architectural and historical elements. In the late 1960s, as a student at UC Davis, Roloff studied with California Funk artists Robert Arneson and William T. Wiley, as well as renowned geologist Eldrige Moores. This combination of radical experimentation in clay and emerging scientific discoveries in plate tectonics became the basis for Roloff's long-term studies of the self, land, and sea. 

The Sea Within the Land, in particular, incorporates a view of the landscape where, in the context of geologic time, the land and sea are mutable, interdependent and may be construed as forms of each other. The processes of erosion and deposition are cyclical inversions of each other, a continuum of land and sea interaction through which new land is constantly being formed. In this fundamental way, land/seascapes are constructed of previous land/seascapes each carrying the blueprint of their ancestor.


The image, form, and structure of ships, are a significant motif in Roloff's practice. Solitary and ghost-like, his ships refer to metaphorical and metaphysical voyages through deep time. The kiln projects and photographic works are sculptural extensions, often at architectural scale, of his research into site and transformation.

In addition to numerous environmental, site-specific installations in the US, Canada and Europe, his work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, UC Berkeley Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, Photoscene Cologne, the Venice Architectural and Art Biennales, The Snow Show in Kemi, Finland and Artlantic: wonder, Atlantic City, NJ. Public art works that explore geologic and related concepts can be found at sites such as: Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, I-5 Colonnade Park, Seattle, WA and Stanford University, Stanford, CA. He has received 3 artist's visual arts fellowships from the NEA, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, a California Arts Council grant for visual artists and a Bernard Osher Fellowship at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, CA. He is Professor Emeritus, Sculpture/Ceramics, San --Francisco Art Institute.

The Land within the Sea, The Sea within the Sea
 and The Land within the Land, are semantic/perceptual iterations of this theme
each evoking individual but overlapping windows into the land/seascape and have been used as titles in other exhibitions and lectures.