Peter Voulkos demonstrating at the 50th anniversary of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. Courtesy of Craft In America, Inc.
Peter Voulkos (1924-2002) is one of those wonderfully contested art world figures who made a name for himself by shaking things up a bit. While Voulkos began as a painter, most of his career was spent as a ceramicist, after he discovered clay in college. The reason Voulkos' work caused controversy, however, was not just that he utilized his skills as a painter in his ceramics - he was continually experimenting with new ways of looking at and working with clay - the real issue that people had with Voulkos' work were his attempts to simultaneously straddle and merge the worlds of art and craft. Now, these days, that's not such an unusual thing, but back when Voulkos' career was first getting started, in the late 1950s, the idea that this guy would come along and break from creating traditional, functional ceramics and instead make massive sculptural forms was a pretty unusual concept. Hooray for the American studio craft movement!
Peter Voulkos demonstrating at Greenwich House Pottery in 1961. Courtesy of Greenwich House Pottery.
Of course, as usual, I am starting to get a bit ahead of myself here. We have the entire month of February to look at Voulkos and his work, and this here is just the introduction. I hope it got you excited though, because just you wait until you see this guy's progression of work. Next week we'll begin with the early years, the late 1940s and 50s, when Voulkos was first beginning to mess with ceramics. Week 3 will take a look at the late 1950 and into the 1960s, when Voulkos' style truly developed and his work really got going. And then, for week 4, we'll turn the whole idea of "Peter Voulkos: potter" on its head and talk about the work that he did in bronze in the 1960s and early 70s.