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Peter Voulkos


Untitled Landscape (Great Plate)

Stoneware and porcelain
7 x 22.5 x 23 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Untitled Landscape (Great Plate) reflects the deconstruction of the vessel tradition that Voulkos began to seriously pursue in the mid-1950s upon returning to California. In California, Voulkos’s work further deconstructed the ceramic vessel, pushing the medium’s boundaries toward sculpture. In Untitled Landscape (Great Plate) the stoneware platter is split, the rim of the plate intentionally broken, and porcelain nubs protrude from the surface. Voulkos’s tears into the clay and its reshaping mirrors the pun within the work’s title, comparing the ceramic plate to the shifting tectonic plates of the earth—the cause of earthquakes.

After a brief stint as the Resident Director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Montana, Voulkos returned to California in 1954 where he founded two influential university ceramics departments; in 1954, the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles (which became a hub for the Los Angeles ceramic avant-garde) and the University of California, Berkeley in 1959. Through these institutions, Voulkos became a seminal figure in the clay communities of California and was instrumental in training a generation of abstract expressionistic ceramic sculptors.

Matthew Limb

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