As a participant in the largest collaborative art exhibit ever undertaken in Southern California, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery of Scripps College presented Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos, 1956–1968, which ran from January 21–April 8, 2012. The exhibition was free and open to the public. The final event celebrating Clay’s Tectonic Shift took place in the Bixby Courtyard, adjacent to the gallery, on Saturday, March 31, from 1 to 5 pm. Dance performances, live music and light refreshments were all part of the festivities.
The gallery celebrated Clay’s Tectonic Shift by holding Clay Days at Scripps on February 18 and 19, from 1 to 5 pm, an exciting event for the community which combined music, dance performances, refreshments and clay activities.
There was also a panel discussion in conjunction with the exhibition. Artists John Mason, John Baldessari and Billy Al Bengston and panel moderator Hunter Drohojowska-Philp took part in a lively exchange of opinions at the Writers Boot Camp in Santa Monica, on February 22, from 7 to 9 pm. The theme was unexpected connections and intersections in the LA artscene.
In Clay’s Tectonic Shift, the Williamson focused on three of the most innovative and dynamic artists of the era, whose work forever changed the way ceramics would be regarded. This shift in perspective came about during the era the Getty initiative highlights in “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980,” a celebration of the vivid post-World War II art scene in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles was the site of a “revolution in clay” in which a small group of artists challenged studio pottery’s traditional focus on utilitarian ware to create sculptural forms. The exhibition and catalog, Clay’s Tectonic Shift, focus on three artists—Mason, Price and Voulkos—who, in the late 1950s and 1960s, emerged as sculptors, creating new works in clay that claimed equal footing with art in other media. Although each of these sculptors has been featured in solo shows or larger group exhibitions, this project is the first to feature their work together through key pieces that mark their emerging sculptural styles from 1956 to 1968.
Dr. Mary MacNaughton, director of the Williamson Gallery, described the concept behind the exhibition and catalog: “Mason, Price, and Voulkos changed the conversation in ceramics from craft to art, creating fired-clay sculpture that was unprecedented in ambition and originality. The exhibition presents important works in this development. These three artists were the catalysts for a new ceramic scene and a definitive shift in the way ceramics were understood. From that point until the present day, clay has simply never been viewed in the same way again.”
The exhibition features a catalog, edited by Mary Davis MacNaughton, with essays by Michael Duncan, Frank Lloyd, Mary MacNaughton, Suzanne Muchnic, and Karen Tsujimoto. Peter Plagens contributed the foreword to the publication.
With its superb Marer Collection of modern American ceramics, and the longest-running contemporary ceramics exhibition in the nation, the Ceramic Annual, Scripps College is uniquely positioned to focus on the pivotal role that ceramics played after World War II.
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Photo: Ken Price, L Red, 1963, 13.5 x 12 x 10 in., Stoneware with lacquer and acrylic, Collection San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund Purchase.
Photo: West African Dancers at Clay Day, Feb. 18, 2012. Photo by Andreas Salomon.