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 Peter Voulkos  (1924 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: sculptor-ceramic, abstraction

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BIOGRAPHY for Peter Voulkos
1924 (Oakland, California)


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sculptor-ceramic, abstraction

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A man who took into a high form of art the medium of clay, Peter Voulkos became an Abstract Expressionist of ceramics. His talents charge his materials with the vitality and spontaneity of action painting, and his art is a synthesis of painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, and pottery.

Based in Oakland, California, he often sent his work on long odysseys for completion with the firing done in New Jersey and sometimes in Japan and photography in Oakland.

He first worked with clay in 1949 when he was attending Montana State College in Boseman, where he was raised, and he was immediately attracted to the medium, although it had no status in the art world. He had taken the pottery class only because he needed the hours to graduate.

In the summer of 1953, he left Montana to teach at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, and there he met New York School members including Willem de Kooning and Jack Tworkov. The exposure changed his life.

In 1954, he made what he laughingly referred to as his first rock and roll pot when he was teaching at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, and under his influence, the school became a gathering place for the most productive clay artists in the country. Among the students were Robert Arneson, Billy Al Bengston, Kenneth Price and Jun Kaneko, all whom became successful artists.

For several years after that, he taught every summer at Columbia University in New York and stayed in touch with his New York School friends. He began doing massive, cantilevered sculptures and in 1959, won the Rodin Prize at the first Paris Biennale. "Gallas Rock," eight feet high, is at the Frederick S Wight Galleries of the University of California at Los Angeles.

In 1959, he was fired from the Otis Art Institute because of the counter- curriculum group he spearheaded, but he was immediately hired by the University of California, Berkeley. There he remained on the faculty for the next 30 years. A stooped man from having bent over the wheel so much, he was known for country boy mannerisms--shy, courteous, and self possessed.

Peter Voulkos died in the morning of Saturday, February 16th, 2002 of an apparent heart attack.

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