Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

John Mason: Spear Form

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I wrote about John Mason’s large-scale work in my last post.  As I thought more about Mason’s huge walls and massive installations, I recalled the beginning of the artist’s large-scale pieces. There is a definite place and time for the development of Mason’s sculptural work. It’s at the studio he shared with Peter Voulkos on Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, in 1957.  As Mason was making his first really large sculpture, he says that the work took its own form.  “After it was finished, I looked at it, and it looked familiar to me.  It did not directly refer to anything I knew.  So the familiarity came from some kind of internal recognition of the form, which is specific and ambiguous,” he later stated in an interview.  That first large sculpture is shown here, from both sides. It is a roughly human-scale form, as are many of Mason’s sculptural works.  Of particular interest to me is the relationship of the glaze-defined surface form to the shape of the piece.  As I’ve written before, Mason’s own words are readily available. Here is what the artist states in the Oral history interview with John Mason, 2006 August 28, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution:

“But once we were in the Glendale Boulevard studio, the thing was, let’s make some sculpture.  And Pete started making sculpture, and his method was to make a variety of thrown forms, to let them cure to the leather state, and then to begin to assemble them, construct and stack them.  What am I going to do?  I don’t know what I’m going to do. And I’m going to let it develop as I go.  So the first big sculpture I did was in 1957 and it became a simple monolithic form.  It looked like a projectile point of some sort. But it had two areas which were colored.  The rest of it was pretty gray.  There was a blue-grey shape on one side, and a more gold-brown shape on the other side.  It was five and a half feet tall, and it was hollow.  But it was totally closed.”

My gallery published a catalogue of Mason’s 2000 exhibition, which included some of the newer Spear forms.  As shown in this image, an observer can easily see the relationship to the earliest large-scale sculpture.  During the summer and early fall of 2000, freelance writer Ben Marks spoke with John Mason on numerous occasions about the evolution of the artist’s work from the mid-1950s to 2000.  These conversations culminated in an interview on September 23, 2000, which Marks transcribed and then edited. The interview began with a discussion of one of Mason’s earliest forms, the spear, which has reasserted itself in the artist’s recent sculptures:

Mason: “There’s certain imagery that seems to reoccur in my own thinking. The new work turns out to be another way to make sculpture that both relates to the older and separates from the older work. The Spears actually began in the late ’50s with a series of pieces that I made on the wheel. And of course they have reoccurred in different forms with the later work. But you know, even calling it a Spear, people sometimes say “are you calling it a spear?  It doesn’t look like a spear.” (Laughs) It may be incorrectly titled. But the 1957 Spear, which was the first big one I made, was actually the first large sculpture I made.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

March 4, 2009 at 11:20 pm

2 Responses

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  1. i regularaly follow ur writing..
    thanks so much for this

    ashwini bhat

    February 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

  2. […] John Mason: Spear Form […]

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