Malcolm Leland was born in 1922 in Columbus, Ohio and from the start, displayed a gift for drawing and creating. He attended art school until World War II demanded his service, flying B-17s against Japan in the South Pacific. Returning from the war a hero, Malcolm faced a decision; get a "respectable" job selling vacuum cleaners or pursue a life of art. To our enduring benefit, he chose the latter, moving to El Segundo, California to found Malcolm Leland Ceramics. With little more than a potter's wheel and a kiln, he immediately found a market for his designs in the high-end shops on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. His work was simple, clean and elegant; motifs which would drive his future artistic success throughout Southern California.
The ceramic works, vessels, fountains and lantern modules that were produced during these early years set a promising course for Malcolm's blossoming modernist reputation and became iconic examples of mid-century design. His ceramic bird shelter won the 1955 MOMA Good Design Award.
Malcolm became increasingly drawn to structure, and was heavily influenced by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. In 1957, high modernist architect Richard Nuetra invited Malcolm to create the louvered ceramic facade of the L.A. Hall of Records. Thus began Malcolm's decades-long career in architectural design, defining the facades and textural elements of many Southern California buildings and plazas.
In 1960, the architectural firm of Daniel, Mann, Mendenhall and Johnson brought the perfect challenge to Malcolm; demonstrate the infinite possibilities of pre-cast concrete for the American Cement Company Building on Wilshire Boulevard at MacArthur Park. Malcolm's designs did just that, imbuing structural confines with organic beauty and grace. Other grand works of note can be seen at the Pomona College Clock Tower, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park, Cal Tech in Pasadena, the San Diego Civic Center, UCLA, USC and Century City.
Malcolm's attention and curiosity turned to water in the 1970s, resulting in one of his most recognizable works. Bringing line and movement together in his fountain, Bow Wave, he depicted San Diego's ongoing relationship with the US Navy and the sea. Installed in 1972, Bow Wave is part of the Smithsonian's inventory of art.
Spanning over 50 years, Malcolm Leland's career as modernist sculptor and architectural designer has brought simplicity, elegance and beauty to a world which adored it in the mid-1900s, and which, by many accounts, desperately needs it today.