Tectonic Shift (Peter Voulkos)

Dimensions165 cm with base (height) x 125 cm x 61 cm
Materials Sandblasted glass, bronze, and wood

The title of this sculpture is taken from an exhibition, Clay’s Tectonic Shift by John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, at Scripps College in Claremont, California. Peter Voulkos, along with his friends began to move ceramics from the craft world into fine arts based on scale, surface textures, color, and volume.

I met Voulkos several times when I was a technical instructor in sculpture at the University of California. I was at the Santa Cruz campus from 1970 to 1973 and he was a professor at Berkeley from 1959 to 1985. During the time I was at the university I was young and just finding my way as an artist. Each year, there was a sculpture symposium at one of the campuses and it was during these meetings that ideas were exchanged and Voulkos was one of the influences that got me to think big and find my own voice. This is an example of how even though one’s visual language can be completely different, a lasting impression can be made.

When he began to be recognized, Voulkos made wheel-thrown large vessels. In the 1950s he started to deform these shapes and assemble them into larger sculptures. This eventually led to very large-scale hand-built sculptures. In this piece, I have attempted to show that movement. The shape of the glass is based on a piece called, “Flying Black Work” from 1958 and the wood is derived from one titled, “Josephine” from 1961. This is to also show that the shift was not absolute. Voulkos went back and forth throughout his career. He never lost his love for wheel thrown work even after his success with the major large-scale installations.