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Peter Voulkos

Stacks

(1969 - 2001)

26 June - 28 September, 2019

Bronze sculpture
Porcelain stoneware plate
Stoneware plate
Detail of bronze ice bucket
Bronze sculpture
Bronze sculpture
Bronze sculpture
Bronze plate
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.
Installation view, 'Peter Voulkos: Stacks (1969-2001)', 2019.

Press Release

Burning in Water is pleased to present a solo exhibition of sculptures by Peter Voulkos in both bronze and ceramics. Organized in collaboration with the artist’s estate and Artworks Foundry of Berkeley, Stacks features a series of monumental bronze sculptures including ten large-scale examples of the artist’s renowned “stacks” works. The bronze sculptures in the exhibition were cast from some of the artist’s most important ceramic sculptures, and the show thus serves as a unique presentation of the artist’s work in his two preferred media: ceramics and bronze. Peter Voulkos: Stacks is the inaugural exhibition of the gallery’s new two-level exhibition space at 515 West 29th St. in New York. To mark the opening, a group exhibition of works by gallery artists will be presented on the mezzanine level of the gallery concurrently.

Widely acknowledged as the progenitor of a profound transformation in American ceramics known variously as American Clay Revolution or the California Clay Movement, Voulkos is considered the seminal figure in the development of contemporary ceramic art in America. As both a working artist and educator, Voulkos was instrumental in unleashing a transformative wave of creativity in clay. As the originating force behind a novel, uniquely American movement in ceramics, Voulkos’ legacy and present-day influence on the medium cannot be over-stated. 

In fact, Voulkos’ experience with bronze predated his work with clay; he began casting bronze in 1942 for the Western Foundry Company, where he fabricated engine molds for American Liberty Ships. Spurred by his desire to work on  an even larger scale and his access to various foundries in Northern California, Voulkos focused almost exclusively on bronze, reserving ceramics for teaching and the raucous, anarchic performances in which he fashioned large ceramic works at universities across the country. For the remainder of his career, Voulkos modulated between his interests in clay and bronze - paths that stopped and started, diverged and, occasionally, converged.

Peter Voulkos (b. 1924, Bozeman, MT; d. 2002, Bowling Green, OH), widely regarded as the founder of the American Clay Revolution, or California Clay Movement, was a West Coast sculptor known for incorporating an array of modernist influences into his ceramics practice. 

Voulkos studied painting and printmaking under the GI Bill at Montana State College after serving as an airplane gunner in the US Army in World War II. He soon discovered a passion for sculpture, graduating with an MFA in 1952. An influential educator with a lengthy career at various institutions, Voulkos established the ceramics department at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now the Otis College of Art and Design), where he taught from 1954 to 1959, and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught from 1959 until his retirement in 1985. He also taught at Black Mountain College and the Archie Bray Foundation. Voulkos toured universities throughout the United States conducting live ceramic workshops to audiences until his death. Notable students of Voulkos include Paul Soldner, John Mason, Ken Price, Billy Al Bengston, Ron Nagle, Stephen de Staebler, and James Melchert.

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