John Mason

(b. 1927)

About The Artist

A trailblazing ceramicist affiliated with the Otis Clay Group, John Mason’s conceptual ceramic sculptures and large-scale, architectural ceramic wall reliefs push the boundaries of clay’s potential for geometric abstraction. 

Born in Nebraska in 1927, Mason spent most of his childhood in the Midwest. At the age of 22 he moved to Los Angeles where he received instruction in ceramics at the Chouinard Art Institute and the Otis Art Institute (now the Otis College of Art and Design). At the latter institute Mason worked alongside other vanguard Los Angeles-based artists of the postwar period, including West Coast Pop artists Richard Pettibone and Billy Al Bengston, as well as the pioneering ceramic artists Paul Soldner and Peter Voulkos. During his tenure at Otis Mason developed a longstanding friendship with Volkous, who would exert profound influence upon the artist’s work. During this period Mason and Volkous shared a studio, where they experimented with new methods of engaging clay, applying innovative techniques and new technologies to extend the material’s potential with regard to form, scale and finish. Along the way they helped transform ceramics’ reputation as a strictly traditional, craft-based medium—often regarded as primitive, or assigned to the realm of folk art—into a sophisticated form capable of complex expression.

The monumentality characteristic of Mason’s vertical ceramic sculptures was revolutionary; ceramics had not formerly been pursued or successfully achieved on such a scale. Mason’s abstract expressionist ceramics have a raw, totemic quality that brings process and material into relief. His precise slab-building technique emphasizes the formal tensions inherent in clay’s capacity to produce both precise geometric forms and organic inconsistencies.

Mason has had one-man shows at the avant-garde Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, Gumps Gallery in San Francisco, and at the Pasadena Art Museum (now the Norton Simon Museum). In addition, his work has been extensively exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), and the Hudson River Museum, among others. His work is represented in numerous major museum collections, including the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Internationally he has exhibited at the International Ceramic Exhibition in Belgium and at the International Exhibit of Contemporary Ceramics in Prague, Czech Republic.