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Untitled Stack, 1981
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Peter Voulkos was among the first American artists to explore the sculptural possibilities of clay. Influenced by abstract expressionism and Japanese pottery, he departed from the regular forms of wheel-throw vessels to push clay toward expressive rather than utilitarian ends. Known as an innovative sculptor, he attracted students to his workshop at the University of California, Berkeley, where he set up the ceramics department in 1959. The work shown here reveals Voulkos’ exploration of the physical properties of his material. Using the form of a traditional vessel, he has squeezed, scored, and dented the clay, activating the rounded form with protuberances and scooped-out caves. Roughly torn and jagged edges split the surface. As the pot sags and leans, the wounding rifts render it functionless as a vessel.