John Mason - Design New York Wednesday, June 9, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jeffrey Spahn Gallery, Berkeley
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    John Mason solo exhibition, Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, October-November 1957

  • Literature

    Mary Davis MacNaughton, ed., Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968, exh. cat., Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, 2012, illustrated p. 44
    Erica Olsen, ed., John Mason: Sculpture 1950-2010, exh. cat., Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, 2018, illustrated p. 170

  • Catalogue Essay

    Exploring Form
    by Lily Kane

    Los Angeles in 1957 was a crucible for explosive innovation in ceramics, much of it emanating from the studio shared by Peter Voulkos and John Mason. Mason’s foundational studies in the material under Susan Peterson at the Chouinard Art Institute provided him with the refinement and skill he would carry forward throughout a career in which he drew inspiration from Voulkos and others as he explored the “serious alteration of form.”¹ This early vessel captures a pivotal moment in which he was vigorously folding in influences from Abstract Expressionism, while holding on to aspects of a “traditional” vessel form like interior space. The piece carries the experimental urgency of the moment in the soft organic curves, glazing, and surface texture bearing traces of his hand. The years following the 1957 Ferus Gallery exhibition found Mason taking a hard turn away from vessel forms in pursuit of sculptural standalone and large-scale, immersive installation works. He would return to the vessel later in his career, though this example pulses with the energy of a young Mason using his material prowess to create a new vocabulary and contribute to a movement that persists as one of the most thought-provoking and extraordinary 20th century collisions of craft and contemporary art.

    ¹Giambruni, Helen. “Exhibition review, John Mason: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; November 16‐February 1.” Craft Horizons, January/February 1967, p. 39.


Early vessel

Glazed stoneware.
27 1/2 in. (69.9 cm) high
Underside painted MASON/57.

$25,000 - 35,000 

Sold for $31,500

Contact Specialist

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New York Auction 9 June 2021