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Peter Voulkos


circa 1952

11.75 x 9.5 x 9.5 in.
Gift of Richard A. Harrison

Though best known for his monumental abstract ceramic sculptures, Peter Voulkos’s Bottle is an exemplary piece from an important transitional moment in his career. It shows the beginnings of Voulkos’s interest in gesture as a means of personal expression, seen in the swirling application of glaze. Voulkos was introduced to the ideas of Zen Buddhism through the work of Shōji Hamada and Bernard Leach at the 1952 Black Mountain College pottery seminar.

Born to Greek immigrant parents in Bozeman, Montana, Voulkos was a key figure in the move toward formal abstraction in American ceramics, and his career redefined the boundaries of the medium of clay. Introduced to ceramics by Frances Senska at Montana State University, he completed his BS degree in 1951. Voulkos and fellow student Rudy Autio were deeply influenced by Senska’s commitment to personal expression. Voulkos received an MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California, in 1952. He then became the first resident director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. Voulkos returned to California in 1954, where he founded two influential university ceramics departments: in 1954, at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles (which became a hub for the Los Angeles ceramic avant-garde), and at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1959. Through these institutions, he became a seminal figure in the clay communities of California and was instrumental in training a generation of abstract
expressionist ceramic sculptors.

Matthew Limb

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This object has the following keywords:
  • lines
  • motifs - Distinct or separable design elements, usually decorative, whether occurring singly as individual shapes. Distinguished from "patterns (design elements)," which are ornamental designs composed of repeated or combined motifs.
  • Spirals

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