The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
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1924Born Bozeman, Montana
2002Died Bowling Green, Ohio
1951BS Painting, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana
1952MFA California College of the Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California
1951-1954Resident Potter, Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, Montana
1943-1946United States Army
1953Instructor, Black Mountain College, Asheville, North Carolina
1954-1959Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
1959-1985Faculty, University of California, Berkeley, California
Peter Voulkos is known for Abstract Expressionist ceramic sculpture and plates characterized by large-scale, unglazed fractured surfaces that set the stage for the mid-twentieth century break with traditional concepts of clay, functional pots, and the potter. His early career in Bozeman, Montana, began with the influence of his instructor, Frances Senska, and was spent honing his skills as a potter making a large body of elegantly thrown and glazed bottle vases and dinnerware.
Voulkos was an influential ceramics teacher. He founded two major ceramics programs: The first in 1954 at the Otis College of Art and Design, then called the Los Angeles County Art Institute, at which his work rapidly became abstract and sculptural; and the second, in 1958 at the University of California, Berkeley. His programs produced a roster of potters, many of whom went on to teach, and whose combined influence produced much of the iconic work of the 20th century including Ken Price, Billy Al Bengston, Paul Soldner, Stephen De Stabler, Jun Kaneko, Larry Shep, Mac McClain (McCloud), John Mason, James Melchert, Michael Frimkess, Jerry Rothman, and Henry Takemoto.
These students highly individual work did not have a “Voulkos look”. The common thread was the approach to clay that allowed personal direct expression. The work produced during this period revolted against the traditional production of the vessel or container that formed the foundation of American pottery. During this time, Voulkos produced new forms that were aggressively asymmetrical, no longer needed to be useful, sometimes ‘crudely’ formed, and very controversial. Voulkos established a unique American ceramic aesthetic.
In 1962 Voulkos shifted his interest to metal, however, in 1973 he returned to ceramics creating an iconic series of 200 plates that were thrown for him to rework. While in the leather stage, Voulkos energized these thrown forms by embedding white porcelain bits, gashing, slashing and puncturing the surfaces.
His Abstract Expressionist ceramics were influenced by his time at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1953. Voulkos is credited with pushing back the boundaries of clay, literally reinventing American ceramics. His work clearly crossed the traditional divide between ceramic as craft and as fine art.
Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Nagoya, Japan
Albany Mall, Albany, New York
Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Alfred University, Alfred, New York
American Museum of Ceramic Arts, Pomona, California
Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, Montana
Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Australia
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts, Alberta, Canada
Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho
Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California
Den Permanente, Copenhagen, Denmark
Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa
Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Fine Arts Museum of the South, Mobile, Alabama
Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, University of California, Los Angeles, California
Fredrick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minnesota
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Het Kruithuis, Museum of Contemporary Art's Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands
Holter Museum of Art, Helena, Montana
Honolulu Academy of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii
Ichon World Ceramic Center, Ichon, Kyonggi Province, Korea
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California
Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, Mineesota
Montana State University School of Art Permanent Collection, Bozeman, Montana
Musée des Arts Decoratifs de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan
Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama, Japan
National Gallery of Art, Melbourne, Australia
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum, Utah State University, Logan, Utah
Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, Trondheim, Norway
Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California
Paul Creative Arts Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery & Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska
Southern Illinois University Art Museum, Carbondale, Illinois
St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Tokyo Folk Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan
Coplans, John. Abstract Expressionist Ceramics. Irvine, CA: University of California, 1966.
Fischer, Hal. "The Art of Peter Voulkos.” ARTFORUM, November 1978.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Peter Voulkos: A Retrospective 1948-1978. San Francisco, CA, 1978.
Slivka, Rose. Peter Voulkos: A Dialogue with Clay. New York, NY: New York Graphic Society in association with American Crafts Council, 1978.
Slivka, Rose and Karen Tsujimoto. The Art of Peter Voulkos. Oakland, CA: Kodansha International and the Oakland Museum, 1995.
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Source: Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California
Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified January 20, 2023. http://themarksproject.org:443/marks/voulkos