Robert Winokur (b. 1933, Brooklyn, NY) has spent his fifty-nine-year career engaged in the pursuit of form. Introduced to ceramics by his mother as a young boy, he took up sculpture and pottery under the tutelage of Rudolf Staffel at Temple University in Philadelphia. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1956 from Temple’s Tyler School of Art, where he majored in sculpture and ceramics. Subsequently, he obtained a master of fine arts degree in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1958.
While realizing the possibilities of his own form of artistic expression Winokur helped several generations of students explore theirs, teaching at Tyler School of Art at the invitation of Staffel, from 1966 until his retirement in 2005. He and his wife, Paula Winokur, a ceramist in her own right, maintain a home, studios, kilns and a gallery in Horsham, Pennsylvania.
Like many ceramists, Winokur focused on functional wares in his early work. Eventually, he began expanding his concept of vessels and containers by experimenting with volume and exploring the study of architectural forms such as houses and barns. The basic elements of visual design — line, form, shape — are foundational to his process, yet he treats the vessel as a canvas for expression. He explores ideas by bringing them to life in clay. His sculpture, rife with whimsy, subtle humor, and irreverent joy, simultaneously conveys feelings of uncertainty, apprehension, and instability. This, he explains, is the “business of contrasts.” Concerned with the viewers and their points of view, Winokur invites them to “bring their life to it” and to “project their imagination” upon his work.
Among many honors, Winokur received a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 1992, was inducted into the International Academy of Ceramics in Geneva, Switzerland, 2004, and was installed into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 2002. His artwork is found in numerous public collections including: The Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Texas; The Museum of Decorative Arts, The Louvre, Paris, France; Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Sanbao International Ceramic Art Work Village and the Ceramics Art Institute, Jingdezhen, People’s Republic of China; Museum Boimans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Renwick Collection, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania.
—Elisabeth R. Agro