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John Mason

Biography to Display: 

1927 Born Madrid, Nebraska

2019 Died Carlsbad, California

 

EDUCATION  

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 

 

BIOGRAPHY 

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 wind 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: 

https://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-john-mason-13582

 

New York Times Obituary February 9, 2019: 

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/0tab5g7a4lxt1fabamsdk/Mason-John-NYT-Obituary.docx?dl=0&rlkey=61l333evvdqo8a8c8pbfvqwj

 

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.

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

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 

 

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Adamson, Glenn. “Craft and the Romance of the Studio.” American Art 21 no. 1 (Spring 2007). 

Austin, Tom. “Uncommon Clay.” Art & Antiques 29 no. 12 (December 2006).  

Ballatore, Sandy. “California Clay Rush.” Art in America 64 (July 1976). 

Camper, Fred. “John Mason.” American Ceramics 13 no. 2 (1998). 

Canavier, Elena Karina., “John Mason Retrospective.,” ArtWeek, June 1, 1974. 

Clark, Garth. “The Voulkos Revolution: Part II, Berkeley, 1960s and Beyond.” Ceramics (Sydney, Australia) no. 50 (2002). 

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 

 Museum, 1978. 

Cooper, Emmanuel. Ten Thousand Years of Pottery, 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000. 

Coplans, John. “Out of Clay.” Art in America 51 (December 1963). 

Davis, Doug. “Brave Feats of Clay., Newsweek (, January 11, 1982). 

Foley, Suzanne. Ceramic Sculpture: Six Artists. New York, NY: Whitney Museum of Art, 1981. 

Folk, T.C. “The Otis Revolution.” Ceramics Monthly 38 (December 1990): 26-29. “The G.I. Bill and the American Studio Craft Movement.” American Craft 67 

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 

Kramer, Hilton, “Ceramic Sculpture and the Taste of California.,” New York Times, December 20, 1981. 

Krauss, Rosalind, “John Mason and Post-Modernist Sculpture: New Experiences, New Worlds., Art in America (May/June 

1978). 

Langsner, J. “Exhibition of Ceramic Sculptures and Bronzes at Ferus Gallery.” Art News 60 (Summer 1961).  

Laporte, P. “Letter from Los Angeles.” Craft Horizons 21 (November 1961). 

Lovoos, Janice. “California Ceramics.” American Artist 32 (May 1968). 

Lauria, Jo. Color and Fire: Designing Moments in Studio Ceramics, 1950-2000. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County 

 Museum of Art, 2000. 

Lauria, Jo, and Steve Fenton. Craft in America. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2007. 

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics 1607 to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988. 

Lynn, Martha Drexler. Clay Today. Los Angeles, CA: Los Angeles County Museum of Art,1990. 

________________. American Studio Ceramics: Innovation and Identity, 1940-1979. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015.

 MacNaughton, Mary, ed. John Mason, Sculpture 1950–2010. Claremont, CA: Scripps College, 2018. 

 

McDonald, Robert. “John Mason: Structure and Space.,” Art Week, September 9, 1978. 

Marks, Ben. “John Mason’s Conceptual Journey.,” American Craft (December 1990/January 1991). 

Marshall, Richard. Ceramic Sculpture: Six Artists. New York, NY: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1981. 

McCloud, Mac. “John Mason.” Ceramics Monthly 36 (January 1988). 

Melrod, George. “John Mason.” American Ceramics 14 no. 4 (2004). 

Miller, Sequoia and John Stuart Gordon. The Ceramics Presence in Modern Art: Selections from the Linda Leonard Schlenger 

Collection and the Yale University Art Gallery. 

New Haven, CT: Yale University Art Gallery, 2015. 

Muchnic, Suzanne., “John Mason, American Craft (April/ May 2000)

 _____________.  ”John Mason,” ARTnews (April 1997)

Nordness, Lee. Objects: USA. New York: Viking Press, 1970. 

Perry, Barbara. American Ceramics: The Collection of the Everson Museum of Art. New York, NY: Rizzoli International 

Publishers, 1989. 

Peterson, Susan. Contemporary Ceramics. London, England: Laurence King Publisher, 2000. 

________________. The Craft and Art of Clay. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice Hall, 1992. 

 ________________. 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). 

Schjeldahl, Peter., “California Goes to Pot.,” The Village Voice, December 23–29, 1981. 

Simmons, C. “Ceramic Sculpture.” Artweek 13 (April 1982).  

Smith, Penny. “Frank Lloyd Gallery.” Ceramics (Sydney, Australia) no. 42 (2000).  

“Soldner-Mason-Rothman; Ceramics at the Ferus Gallery.” Craft Horizons 17 (September 1957). 

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. 

 

 

 

 

Typical Marks
ca 1954
1955
1955
1956
ca 1957
1969
Vase
Date: ca 1954
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
E John Bullard Collection
E John Bullard Collection
Bowl
Date: 1955
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr.and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 87.1.6, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr.and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 87.1.6, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Large Footed Bowl
Date: 1955
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,92.1.60, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,92.1.60, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.52, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.52, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab Built, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.48, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.48, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Platter
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab molded, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 78.1.793, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 78.1.793, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Platter
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab molded
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.56, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.56, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Bowl
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,92.1.53, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,92.1.53, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Candle Holder
Date: 1957
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.55, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.55, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Plate
Date: 1958
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab molded
Surface Technique: Carved, Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.57, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.57, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: ca 1959
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.47, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.47, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1961
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Slab Built, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Carved, Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 80.8.38, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 80.8.38, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
"A"
Date: 1969
Form: Platter
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab molded
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 85.4.5, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 85.4.5, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Footed Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.45, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.45, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Bowl
Date: 1956
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.54, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.54, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP

Citation: Clark, Donald. "The Marks Project." Last modified February 19, 2021. http://themarksproject.org:443/marks/mason-0