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1/30/2013-- 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 the search for
a new aesthetic changed international ceramic art.
Key figures in this revolution were Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson. Voulkos founded the ceramic program at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis Art Institute) in1954 and established California as the center for avant-garde ceramic art in the mid-20th century. An admirer of Voulkos and a teacher at the University of California, Davis, Arneson was associated with the Funk art movement which is characterized by deliberately unpolished style, over-scaled imagery and rejection of formal sculpture. While coming from different perspectives, both artists 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.