NEW YORK CITY — We are posting portions of the New York Times review of the exhibition Peter Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years at the Museum of Arts and Design (October 18, 2016 – March 15, 2017). There is one important caveat, however!
Above image: Peter Voulkos working.
Cfile is thrilled that Voulkos is getting some long (long) overdue attention, but we disagree with the assertion that Voulkos was an influential sculptor. He was an influential artist and potter. We will be examining the paradox of Voulkos in an upcoming issue of Ostracon Journal, which is sure to be highly controversial. Voulkos’ star has been falling while those of Ken Price and Ron Nagle’s are ascending. But that’s a conversation for another time. From Rosenberg’s review:
The charismatic, rebellious sculptor and teacher was a genuine rock star of his medium, a trained potter who went on to violate every rule of pot-making — often before a live audience. His sculptures started out clearly enough as polite, wheel-thrown vessels but evolved into nervy and transgressive abstract paintings, looming behemoths fired in industrial-size kilns, precarious assemblages and live-wire performances (no ritual immolation but lots of smashing and dropping of plates and vases).
“Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years,” a taut, electric exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, shows us just how quickly and deftly Voulkos (1924-2002) reinvented ceramic art. It zooms in on 1953 to 1968, a pivotal decade and a half in American painting and sculpture — not just in New York but, as is less often recognized, on the West Coast, where Voulkos worked and taught (first at the Los Angeles County Art Institute, now known as the Otis College of Art and Design, and then at the University of California, Berkeley). There, he developed a kind of “Abstract Expressionist ceramics,” embraced by critics in both Artforum and Craft Horizons, and influenced outstanding painter-ceramists including Ken Price and Ron Nagle.
According to MAD, the exhibition is a rare look into Voulkos’ early period development:
While trained as a traditional potter, Voulkos defied mid-century craft dictums of proper technique and form to completely reinvent his medium. He combined wheel throwing with slab building, traditional glazes with epoxy paint, figuration with abstraction, and made huge ceramic structures with complex internal engineering. The exhibition features approximately 31 examples from this crucial body of early work, most of which have not been exhibited on the East Coast for four decades. Also included are three of the artist’s rarely seen works in oil on canvas, which help to demonstrate how Voulkos developed his ideas concurrently in painting, sculpture, and pottery.
Do you love or loathe this work from the world from contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.