The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
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1927 Born Madrid, Nebraska
2019 Died Carlsbad, California
1949-1952 Los Angeles County Art institute (now Otis Art Institute), Los Angeles, California. Student and close friend of Pete Voulkos.
1953-1954 Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, California
PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE
1955 – 1957 Dinnerware Designer, Vernon Kilns, Los Angeles, California
1960 – 1967 Pomona College, Claremont, California
1967 – 1974 Professor of Art, University of California, Irvine and Berkeley, California
1974-1984 Hunter College, New York, New York
John Mason is known for abstract sculptures and wall reliefs focused on the exploration of the physical properties of stoneware.The result was a wide range of new possibilities for creating large clay forms and environments. As a result of his fascination with torque and rhythm, forms twist, curve, spin, and twist in space. These pieces are hand-built, often using slabs. His early work was characterized by rough forms and surfaces.
Early in his career, during the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mason created a number of function-based vessels that were slab, coil-built, or thrown, and highly altered. These pieces were of a scale typically exceeding that of the useful domestic vessels they reference.
Later in his career Mason created geometric-driven forms with totally smooth surfaces and very subtle glaze treatment or manufactured rough material installations focused on environment and the viewer. “In his Hudson River Series, … that would monopolize Mason’s thoughts and work for much of the 1970’s, Mason turned to manufactured fire bricks as a medium, and distinctly revealed his deep interest in the role of the viewer and his fascination with the process of perception.” 1
Mary MacNaughton notes, “Mason can be seen as a precursor to the ‘slow art movement,’ which has emerged as a riposte to viewers who scan art exhibitions and spend only seconds on artworks. Instead, the movement encourages viewers to focus on durational looking at artworks to allow them to take effect on the viewer. For the last fifty years, Mason’s works certainly have rewarded slow looking.” 2
Oral history interview with John Mason, 2006 August 28. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution:
New York Times Obituary February 9, 2019:
1. Meditation on Material: John Mason’s Firebrick Installations, press release. Claremont, CA: Scripps College, 2018.
2. MacNaughton, Mary ed. John Mason, Sculpture 1950–2010. Claremont, CA: Scripps College, 2018.
Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Nagoya, Japan
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona
Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Chicago Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois
Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, Missouri
Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
Gifu Prefectural Museum, Seki City, Japan
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California
Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shiga Prefecture, Japan
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
National Museum of History, Republic of China, Taipei, Taiwan
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California
Pomona College, Claremont, California
Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin
Scripps College, Claremont, California
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington DC
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California
Wichita Art Institute, Wichita, Kansas
World Ceramic Center, Ichon, Korea
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Cohen, Ronny H. “Clay at the Whitney.” American Craft 42 (February/March 1982).
Conn, Catherine and Rosalind Krauss. John Mason: Installations from the Hudson River Series. Yonkers, NY: Hudson River
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,” Newsweek ( ,
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no. 4 (August/September 2007).
Haskell, Barbara, R.G. Barnes and John Mason. John Mason Ceramic Sculpture. Pasadena, CA: Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, 1974.
Iannaccone, Carmine. “John Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos at Frank Lloyd.” Art Issues no. 55 (November/December 1998).
Johnson, Ken, “John Mason and Peter Voulkos.
,” New York Times Art Review, November 3, 2000.
Knodel, Gerhardt, and Garth Clark. “Contemporary Ceramics, a Symposium at Cranbrook Academy of Art.” Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Academy of Art, 2004. DVD
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,” New York Times, December 20, 1981.
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,” Art in America ( , May/ –June , 1978).
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________________. American Studio Ceramics: Innovation and Identity, 1940-1979. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.
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,” Art Week, September 9, 1978.
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,” American Craft ( , December 1990/January 1991).
Marshall, Richard. Ceramic Sculpture: Six Artists. New York, NY: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1981.
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Melrod, George. “John Mason.” American Ceramics 14 no. 4 (2004).
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Collection and the Yale University Art Gallery.
New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, 2015.
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________________. Working with Clay, 2nd ed. New York: Overlook Press, 2002.
Perreault, John. “Fear of Clay.
,” ArtForum ( , April 1982).
Ramljak, Suzanne. “John Mason.” American Ceramics 14 no. 4 (2004).
“Revolutions of the Wheel: The Emergence of Clay Art.” Directed and edited by Scott Sterling. Queens Row, 1997. VHS
Riddle, Mason. “2006 Regis Masters Exhibition: Val Cushing, John Mason, and Paul Soldner.” Ceramics Monthly 54 no. 5 (May 2006).
Roberts, Diana Lyn. “The Scholar’s Eye.” Ceramics Monthly 56 no. 10 (December 2008).
, “California Goes to Pot. ,” The Village Voice, December 23–29, 1981.
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Whitesides, Elvin, Joe Lauria et al. “Color and Fire: Defining Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000.” Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 2002, 2000. DVD, Video.
Citation: Clark, Donald. "The Marks Project." Last modified April 16, 2023. http://themarksproject.org:443/marks/mason-0