Franklin Parrasch Gallery is pleased to announce Peter Voulkos: Works, 1956-1997, the first solo presentation of this artist’s work in New York since 1997. Included in this exhibition are ten ceramic works from distinct periods throughout the artist’s five-decade career, all of which hail from a single private collection.
In the geology of Peter Voulkos’s ceramic crust with its cracks, fissures and breaks, we see the process of inevitabilities unique, alive to his touch, there waiting inexorably in the material. One could say it’s pottery about making pots and breaking them; about continuity and fragmentation; about the beginning of the world and the end, its first rumble and its last sigh, its first explosion and its last shiver. [Rose Slivka]
Peter Voulkos (1924-2002), born and raised in Bozeman, Montana in the Depression era, was the son of working-class Greek immigrants. After serving in the Pacific during World War II, Voulkos returned home in the mid-1940s; the GI Bill allowed him to enroll at Montana State College (now Montana State University), where he studied painting and eventually discovered his love for ceramics. He went on to earn an MFA in ceramics at the California College of Arts and Crafts in 1952. In the summer of 1953, while Voulkos was teaching at the famed Black Mountain College in Asheville, NC, he met Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham. They convinced him to visit New York. Voulkos took them up on their suggestion soon after, and it was during that first trip that he met and became inspired by Abstract Expressionists Willem DeKooning and Franz Kline.
It was an invitation to chair the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis Art Institute) ceramics department in 1954, however, that propelled Voulkos’ long and famed teaching career. At Otis he broke ranks with traditional rules of both ceramic practices and teaching methods and radically created a new path for clay to merge with contemporary art.
Voulkos’ unorthodox teaching style – essentially having students learn by simply watching him, and then creating their own work without specific instruction – was frowned upon by the administrative staff at Otis; in contrast, Voulkos’s unique methodology was highly regarded by many students, including eventual luminaries such as Billy Al Bengston and Ken Price. Voulkos’s studio class mantra “no rules, no rules” inspired a radical departure for ceramics as an art form and gave it a voice outside of functional pottery. Otis could tolerate his unstructured teaching style for only so long, though, and in early 1959, Voulkos’s forced departure sent him to UC Berkeley where he taught until his retirement in 1985.
From his retirement through his last days in 2002, Voulkos spent much of his time traveling to art schools, universities, and other institutions, performing what he called “demonstrations” wherein he literally created major works in front of an audience. Voulkos’s physical strength, his enormously charismatic personality, and his mastery of clay are legendary even now, a decade after his death.
This exhibition will be on view at 20 West 57th Street from October 17-November 23. For images and further information please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-246-5360, Tuesday-Saturday 10a-6p.