the artist

Robert Winokur

Robert Winokur

Brooklyn, NY

Robert Winokur

Having been a potter for a long time it occurred to me that a house is a unique kind of container.  I think the thought grew out of a fantasy I had once in which I made vessels so large that I had to lower myself down over the side on a scaffold, from the top, in order to decorate it.  A pot that size would be as big as a house.

A house is a unique kind of container; One that is imbued with a deep set of profound and multi-layered psychic associations.  To a child, a house represents warmth, family, love, security, and identity.  In the process of my doing houses, they became, for me, a symbol of choice and I have been working with the form for more than ten years.

I don’t know when it was that I became fascinated and enthralled by artwork done by children and in particular with the drawings and paintings done by them of houses.  What I find truly compelling about these works was their innocence, exuberance, and spontaneity.

Those qualities and elements of children’s art that inspired me to work with the house surface every now and then, but the sense of joy, euphoria, playfulness, and spontaneity has been replaced by a kind of somber introspection.  Perhaps it is the color of the clay coupled with the construction process I use to make the houses that moves me in this direction this.

Like sculptures of Equestrian Horsemen or Madonna’s with Child, the houses have become, a form, a kind of abstraction that expresses, on one level, a formal study of variations on the theme and, on another, an exploration of the possibilities that can be wrung from the symbol.  The ladders and the asparagus are recent elements that I have taken to.  They do all sorts of neat things to modify and alter the way in which the houses are seen.

For me what looks right determines whether a piece “works” or not.  There is no conscious intellectual mechanism and certainly no pre-existing manifesto at play here.  As the little girl told the psychologist who asked her to tell him about her drawing said, “This is not a story this is a picture to be looked at.”

The pragmatic description of what it is I do is that I use Pennsylvania brick clay mixed with fire clay to construct the houses out of slabs of clay.  I fire the houses to c/9 / 10 in a salt kiln.

Fast Facts

Name: Robert Winokur


Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York

1958 M.F.A. New York State College of Ceramics. Alfred, New York
1956 B.F.A. Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Elkins Park, PA

Significant or special training:
1966, 1970, 1980 Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, Maine
1978 Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, Montana
2006 Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village, Colorado
2007 Northern Clay Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Notable or memorable instructors or mentors:
Rudolf Staffel

Particular field of study or class work:
Sculpture in Salt Glazed stoneware

Major influences/admired artists:
Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn

Favorite materials or media:
Clay, Salt, Flame, Humor, Insight and a mental attic full of dad jokes, religion, and pieces of string too short to save.

Gallery Representation (when Convention Center acquired artwork):
Helen Drutt

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