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Clay's Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos, 1956–1968

  • Edited by Mary Davis MacNaughton

    Clay's Tectonic Shift focuses on artists John Mason (born 1927), Kenneth Price (born 1935), and Peter Voulkos (1924–2002) and their radical early work in postwar Los Angeles where they formed the vanguard of a new California ceramics movement. The three artists broke from the craft tradition that emphasized the function of a piece. Experimenting with scale, surface, color, and volume, their work was instrumental in elevating ceramics from a craft to a fine art.

    Earlier exhibitions and publications stated that key innovations in this new ceramics movement were made at the Otis Art Institute and that its direction was defined by a group of students surrounding the charismatic leader Voulkos. The truth is that the new trend in ceramics was driven by the works that Price, Mason, and Voulkos made in a subsequent, independent phase when they were working as professional artists in Los Angeles, and the goal of Clay's Tectonic Shift is to correct that misconception. These three artists followed individual paths as they willfully propelled a new use of the medium into the mainstream professional arena, where it was widely recognized and documented.

    An exhibition of the same name was on view at the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery at Scripps College from January 21 through April 8, 2012, as part of Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene.

    Mary Davis MacNaughton, director of the Williamson Gallery and associate professor of art history at Scripps College, has contributed to books on ceramics, including Revolution in Clay: The Marer Collection of Contemporary Ceramics (University of Washington Press, 1994) and retrospectives on Paul Soldner and David Furman.

    240 pages
    8 1/2 x 11 inches
    131 color and 37 b/w illustrations
    ISBN 978-1-60606-105-3

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: Scripps College/J. Paul Getty Museum