Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years @ MAD

“Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years is the first exhibition to focus on the early career of Peter Voulkos, whose radical methods and ideas during this period opened up the possibilities for clay in ways that are still being felt today.”

A chance encounter with the work of an artist I had never heard of before – highly popular in this part of the world, less so in Europe it seems. Following a quick research, I now know that he was an American of Greek descent (as his name suggests), whose parents had migrated to Bozeman, Montana where he was born. He served in the U.S. Army during WWII and studied painting and printmaking in Montana State University where he was also introduced to ceramics. He died in 2002 doing what he loved best: demonstrating his skill to a live audience.

“Commissions for large-scale works in bronze occupied a good deal of Voulkos’ time in the early 1960s, but he continued to work in clay energetically and innovatively. Many of his ceramic works of this period were made in public demonstrations. Voulkos was a natural performer who loved working in front of a crowd. One observer who saw him make Josephine at Greenwich House Pottery in New York, remembers how ”he worked with total abandon and total focus all at the same time”, first pounding the piece as it rose on the wheel then slicing it in half, then welding it together with wet clay as he worked it with his fists from the inside, and finally splashing its surface with slip and glaze.

Voulkos’ demonstrations were great theater, and even the ceramic works that he was making in the studio at this time, such as a series of cracked and fissured plates, capture this sense of immediacy. They can be compared with contemporary Abstract Expressionist paintings, many of which project a similar, stereotypically masculine combination of authority and aggression. Yet Voulkos’ improvisations also relate to his interest in jazz and Spanish flamenco, which he played proficiently on the guitar. ”I think that working in the form of pottery is a very demanding thing” he said. ”The minute you touch a piece of clay it responds, it’s like music – you have to know all the structure and know how to make sound before you can come up with anything”.”

Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years was on show until March 15th, 2017 at 

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
2, Columbus Circle
New York City

March 12th, 2017

Philadelphia – The Steps, The Men, The Tune

How many times I heard the tune, I couldn’t possibly tell – I lost count halfway to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It had been in my head all along and seemingly everyone – myself included – got in synch as soon as The Steps appeared on the far end of the long stretch between Logan Square and The Oval.

Everyone, except Washington that is, seeing how he faces away, his back turned to the steps.

The rest of the world goes the Rocky wayLike this Donut Man
Or this Reenactor Or the Man himself

And, finally, The Tune:

The Rocky Steps, Philadelphia
February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – The Skywalkers

Inside the ”Winter Garden” aka main lobby of the Comcast Center. Two show-stopping public art installations.

The Comcast Experience, a 25.4ft tall, 83.3 feet, 2,000sf high-definition LED screen with incredibly clear, almost 3-D moving images, ranging from the clock wheels pictured here, to monumental natural landscapes to Betty Boop dancing.

And the permanent installation ”Humanity in Motion” by Jonathan Borofsky – 12 realistically painted life-size figures of stainless steel, walking on horizontal poles and two figures standing at ground level. Guess which ones?

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia – another short walk

Through Thomas Paine Plaza, the city’s urban garden across from the City Hall.

Finding the Comcast Center Building, the tallest one in the city – at least until the other Comcast highrise, the one you see coming up on the left side, is complete. The Comcast Technology Center’s ambition is to become one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. Getting some New York vibes of steel and glass verticality? 

There’s something going on here but I’m not sure I want to find out exactly what! 

February 22nd, 2017

Philadelphia City Hall – The Building

Philadelphians are proud of their history and heritage, and one way to show it is by signing up as volunteer guides. Go to any site of historical or cultural interest and you can be sure to find a tour lead by a ranger or a knowledgeable docent.

Like the City Hall Interior tour we took, which includes a visit to the Tower for a panoramic view of the city. Actually, the tour starts outside, across from the Wanamaker Building, where John Wanamaker’s bronze statue commemorates him simply as ”Citizen”; then on to the inner courtyard before entering the vast City Hall – the largest municipal building in the world – and its seemingly endless corridors and offices.

See that small feature on top of the tower? This is a 27-ton, 37ft bronze statue of the city’s founder, William Penn. Created by Alexander Milne Calder, it is the tallest statue atop any building in the world.

Biggest, oldest, tallest… superlatives seem to characterize Philadelphia – and very suitably so, I might add.

February 22nd, 2017

Crazy electric hair

Of all the glass sculptures in this exhibition, Neon 206 stands out as the craziest. Installed specifically to reflect on the Conservatory windows and the pool outside, it must be seen in the dark or else it would look just like a bundle of bent tubes (which is what it is). But at night it transforms into an explosion of light, the perfect backdrop for those playful shadowy portraits; snapshots of electric dreams.

With this neon light craziness, we bid farewell to the Botanical Garden and the magical world of Dale Chihuly. Next stop, Philadelphia…

Neon 206 (2017)

Chihuly Nights, New York Botanical Garden

October 14th, 2017

A walk down memory lane

When lemonade was served in lace crystal glasses and sipped through grandma’s drinking glass straws. Those lean, sleek pastel coloured things of beauty that were kept locked only to come out when there were visitors – on Sundays mostly. Despite handling with care, they succumbed to their fragile nature, one by one, drink after drink. They were never replaced. It was the dawn of the 1970s and Tupperware had already taken Europe by storm since the 1960s. The plastic age had arrived.


White Tower with Fiori
Glasshouse Fiori

Chihuly Nights, New York Botanical Garden

October 14th, 2017