Abstract Form

Accession Number

Abstract Form

Peter Voulkos

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
circa 1960

Medium & Support

37 ⅜ in x 32 11/16 in x 13 ¾ in (95 cm x 83 cm x 35 cm);37 ⅜ in x 32 11/16 in x 13 ¾ in (95 cm x 83 cm x 35 cm)

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Voulkos was an icon of ceramics and the “American clay revolution.” He started out as a functional potter, but soon began to challenge the boundaries and conventions of clay as a medium, turning away from refinement and toward spontaneous forming, marking, and mangling. In his hands clay went from a craft material suitable for vessels to one appropriate for sculptural works of art. This work’s large scale, abstract form, and painterly use of glazes create a dramatic effect that had rarely been seen in earlier pottery. Voulkos treated the surface of the clay like a canvas, painting in large, bold strokes, drawing inspiration from the scale and vigorous application of paint of Abstract Expressionist painting. Though his work has been called “Abstract Expressionist ceramics,” his influences also included Picasso, improvisational jazz, and African and pre-Columbian art.
In his life he was honored with nearly every prize in the ceramics field, some created just for him. Not only did he produce an innovative body of work, he was an unorthodox and influential teacher; his revolutionary vision permanently altered the course of American ceramics.

Subject matter
Drawing inspiration from Japanese ceramics, American Abstract Expressionist painting, and improvisational jazz, Voulkos pushed the limits of his medium and moved beyond the realm of the ceramic vessel to a new level of sculpted and painted ceramic form.

Inspired by the large-scale, unpremeditated form, free-energy and bold gestural strokes of abstract expressionism, his work became marked by mass and size, spontaneous form, and a bold, painterly use of glazes.

Physical Description
Large stoneware abstract sculpture with two balanced lateral crescent-shaped forms branching off a central conical structure. Brown with loosely-painted broad brushstrokes in black and incised decoration of rows of dots in a “stitching-like” pattern

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area

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Abstract (fine arts style)
Abstract Expressionist
ceramics (object genre)
modern and contemporary art
sculpture (visual works)
vessels (containers)

1 Related Resource

Fourth Grade: Material Matters
(Part of: Docent Curricular Tours)

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