The years between 1956 and 1986 witnessed a fundamental shift in American ceramics, one that took place mainly on the West Coast in California and Washington. Freed from the constraints of making functional objects, ceramics artists began experimenting with abstract and figural forms, radical building techniques and surface treatments.
The resulting sculptural pieces were groundbreaking, and this search for a new aesthetic changed international ceramic art forever. Key figures in this revolution were Robert Arneson and Peter Voulkos, who — while coming from different perspectives — established similar atmospheres of innovation at the programs they led in California. Their respective ethos spurred ceramics artists across the state and beyond to embrace this new philosophy, leading to a 30-year period of intense creativity that produced remarkable works of sculpture.
Three Decades of West Coast Ceramics, 1956–1986 showcases works from the rich MFAH collection of American ceramics made during this important period. Specifically, the exhibition focuses on teachers and students from seminal ceramics programs at four universities: The Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles; and the University of Washington, Seattle.