Peter Voulkos Ceramics

December 3, 2009

American artist of Greek decent, Peter Voulkos (1924-2002) is well known for his abstract expressionist styled ceramics sculptures.  Entrapped in the process of clay-making, Voulkos developed works not with the traditional craft foundation of ceramics, but rather in an experimental way that lead him to treat the medium as pure sculpture. The highly-charged era gave Voulkos the surge to be dynamic and create by doing, to embrace the ‘charm’ of accidents, and to allow the immediate to occur. The abstract expressionistic nature of Voulkos ceramics began after he attended the Black Mountain College in Ashville, NC in 1953, and that summer when he lived in New York City and met Franz Klein and William de Kooning. In New York City Voulkos was in the middle of an artist explosion, exposed to the New York School action painting and abstract expressionism.  In 1954 Voulkos moved to Los Angeles, where he set up a ceramics department at Otis College. As a teacher he didn’t lecture or instruct. He just worked.  Influenced by Picasso, Japanese Raku pottery, and the American “action” school of art, Voulkos allowed the expressionistic nature of the clay to come to life as he created quickly to stimulate new ideas, just like his contemporaries of the time, Klein and de Kooning, who were similarly embracing spontaneity as a force in paintings and other mediums.

Four Peter Voulkos ceramics and sculptures are offered in the December 6, 2009 LA Modern Fine Art, Sculpture, and Design Auction.

Lot 188, Peter Voulkos, Large Pot

Lot 188, Peter Voulkos Large Pot, Studio, executed 1958-59

Stoneware vessel comprised of wheel thrown, paddled, cut and manipulated forms with decoration.

Signed, sold with two books on Voulkous

Made by Voulkos while at the University of Montana

Estimate: $30,000 – 50,000

Lot 189, Peter Voulkos, Lidded Vessel

Lot 189, Peter Voulkos Lidded Vessel, Studio, executed circa 1952-54

Wheel thrown stoneware jar with lid decorated with applied sgraffito technique

Signed and retains paper label

Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

Lot 190, Peter Voulkos, Sculpture

Lot 190, Peter Voulkos Sculpture, Studio, executed circa 1956

Stoneware vase decorated with slab applique technique and “waffle” texture


Estimate: $5,000 – 8,000

Lot 191, Peter Voulkos, Creamer

Lot 191, Peter Voulkos Creamer, Studio, executed 1952-1954

Wheel thrown stoneware vessel with spout and pulled handle


Estimate: $1,500 – 1,800

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