John Mason Retrospective

The Pasadena Museum of Modern Art presents a retrospective of the sculpture of ceramist John Mason, one of the several artists who, in 1956, began breaking away from the ceramic craftman's traditional concern with technique and move in the direction of sculpture.

Along with Peter Voulkos and a number of other ceramists working at the Otis Art Institute, Mason pioneered an attack against the craftman's longtime preoccupation with vessel shapes and utilitarian concerns. These artists forced the medium into new directions by utilizing it in an unacademic a manner as possible.

In this period, Mason produced a series of vertical totem pieces which utilized the tremendous immediacy and responsiveness of raw clay. The energized, jagged surface and gestural content of these pieces relate closely to Abstract Expressionist paintings. A sense of organic growth and vitality characterizes these sculptures.

Enhancing his scale and simplifying both his shapes and surfaces, Mason began working on a series of single color monoliths. These pieces, while minimal in overall shape, differ in character from the industrial, hard-edge orientation of others working within the minimalist vocabulary of forms. The starkness of the forms is counteracted by the sensuous, richly glazed surface. The simple shapes seem actually to contain their buillant orange and red glazes.

His most recent work is created with ready-made, blond fire-bricks. These pieces, which are based on a system of modular progressions, can be enlarged or reduced by varying the number of modules. In feeling, the pieces have a serene grandeur which can be linked to the Pyramids or Stonehenge. Reflective of mathematic law and physical geometry, they seem to be exploring fundamental relationships in nature.