by Voulkos, Peter (American, 1924-2002)
Categorized in Ceramic

In postwar ceramics, Voulkos transformed his wheel-thrown and altered pots into massive sculptural pieces of art. He succeeded in liberating his works from the confines of the vessel. His laid back style and unconventional methods appealed to his students at Otis Art Institute (known as the Los Angeles County Art Institute at that time) who flourished under the influence of their exciting young instructor. Voulkos and his students drastically changed traditional approaches to clay and this led to an inevitable clash with the administration who elected to fire Voulkos. His students at Otis had fond memories of him such as playing a modified version of a Zen game. They played a version that consisted of a two minute challenge to see who could make the ugliest teapot in that brief amount of time. After his firing the University of California at Berkeley hired him and he remained there for thirty years. Voulkos?s innovations with clay were unprecedented and literally shocked the ceramic world into its own elevated status. The spirit of Abstract Expressionism was infused in the massive sculptural pieces he was constructing. Like the Abstract Expressionist painters who made large spontaneous gestural marks across their canvases, he slashed, gouged, and slit the surfaces of his works. He was well acquainted with the Abstract Expressionist artists (or as they preferred to call themselves, the New York School artists) whom he spent time with during his summers when he taught at Columbia University in New York. He gathered with the likes of DeKooning and Pollock at the infamous Cedar Tavern where they held lively discussions about art.

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