Smithsonian American Art Museum
Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years, is the first exhibition to focus on the early career of Peter Voulkos, from 1953–1968.
While trained as a traditional potter, Voulkos' radical methods and ideas during this period opened up the possibilities for ceramics in ways that are still being felt today. Voulkos defied mid-century craft dictums of proper technique and form, completely re-invented his medium. He combined wheel throwing with slab-building, traditional glazes with epoxy paint, figuration with abstraction, and made huge ceramic structures with complex internal engineering. The exhibition will feature approximately thirty-five examples from this crucial body of early work, most of which have not been exhibited on the East Coast for four decades.
Also included will be two of the artist's rarely seen works in oil on canvas, which help to demonstrate how Voulkos developed his ideas concurrently in painting, sculpture, and pottery. Both the exhibition and accompanying catalogue will provide a specific and detailed account of the breakthrough works from Voulkos's vital period of experimentation.
Whether you go or no, Peter Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years is the first monograph in over 20 years on Peter Voulkos. Covering the most prolific span of Voulkos’ career, from the early 1950s to the 1970s, this book includes both his well-known ceramic works as well as his largely overlooked paintings. While Voulkos’ work has most often been discussed in relation to the practice of ceramics, the writers explore Voulkos’ work through the scope of art history and in a contemporary light. In addition to considering the breakthrough years of Voulkos’ practice, numerous artists explore his legacy, in the expressive language of clay that he helped to re-invent.