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Every Man, Every Woman: The Figures of Viola Frey    7. Jan - 20. Feb 2010

Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands
Viola Frey
Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands, 2003-2004
 
  
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The first exhibition of 2010 at Nancy Hoffman Gallery, 520 West 27th Street, will be ceramic sculptures, including monumental figures as well as bricolage groupings, and works on paper by Viola Frey, entitled: “Every Man, Every Woman: the Figures of Viola Frey.” The exhibition opens on January 7th and continues to February 20th.

The Museum of Arts and Design, New York, will also host a solo exhibition of Frey’s work entitled “Bigger, Better, More,” opening on January 26th and continuing through May 2nd. This exhibition was co-organized by the Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin and the Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Ontario, and is accompanied by a book of the same name, published by Hudson Hills Press.

Frey loved and celebrated the human figure in overscale proportions throughout her oeuvre, drawing from the model in the studio, squeezing pieces of clay and transform-ing the moist clumps into giant sculptures of every man, every woman. Her largerthan- life men and women are ordinary, thinking, reflective beings that gaze out at the world, their faces revealing an inner life marked and lined by matters of consequence. In their heroic scale they transport the viewer to a time when everything was larger than life itself, the innocent child peering upwards.

This sense of wonder pervades all of Frey’s work. “Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands” is dressed pertly in her pink birthday suit. She sits upright, supported by her huge orange hands, looking into space, confident of her stature, unabashed by her curves and golden streaked tresses styled in ‘50s fashion. She is a symbol of the artist’s philosophy that man is more powerful in his blue power suit and woman more powerful in her birthday suit! Echoing this philosophy is “Standing White Majestic Man,” Frey’s final sculpture, created just before she died in 2004. For the first time, the artist decided to include in an exhibition three major pieces glazed in white, thus focusing on the beauty of form, undiluted by the joy of her palette. Standing with arm outstretched, this every man beckons with one hand, while his other is perched on his hip. No longer a symbol of power, and/or intimidation, every man has become a sympathetic personality. Realizing this stance with arm outstretched was the artist’s final feat of engineering in a medium not typically associated with monumental sculpture.

In “Bigger, Better, More,” Davira Taragin writes:
“Frey is best known for her gigantic figures. Not only does Frey reveal her early involvement in painting in the dynamic color glazes of the surfaces of these ceramic sculptures, but she also proves to be a perceptive observer of gender and power issues as they were played out specifically in mid-20th century America.”

“World Culture Bricolage,” a grouping of smaller figures and figurines exemplifies the artist’s love of the figure clothed in period dresses and suits, and her passion for collecting and slip casting mass-produced ceramic figurines she found at flea markets in Oakland and San Francisco. She considered the figurines abstractions of contemporary society when removed from the context of people’s homes. Over the years, Frey built a collection of hundreds of ceramic figurines, which she housed on shelves in a closet in her home, a kind of mini-museum of source material. Among the cascading figurines in “World Culture,” are a bust of a Native American, a red rooster, hands (casts of the artist’s hands), a kindled candle, a tiny football player, a Wedgewood lass, and myriad other images that create a symphonic flow of energy, color and life.

Works on paper in gouache, charcoal, pastel, oil and acrylic further depict Frey’s personal approach to the human figure, particularly a series of gouache/charcoal works with unclothed men and women, the artist’s own “Adam and Eve.” Though drawn from the model, these figures might be sculptures in large scale as their bodies are reduced to basic outline and shapes, not details that personalize. Like her sculptures, the works on paper are joyful in palette filled with the brio of an artist who relished drawing as much as sculpting, relished abstracting forms with color in two dimension as well as three dimension.

In “Bigger, Better, More,” Patterson Sims writes of the artist’s works on paper:
“Frey’s paintings and big pastels most audaciously display her concepts of space and human interaction. They evoke the density, jumble and clutter of her Oakland house and backyard, and to a lesser degree the expanse and clutter of her West Oakland studio/storage space. These boisterous works overflow with figures World Culture Bricolage, 1999, ceramic, 31 x 64 x 18 inches and figurines that cannot be differentiated, behaving in ways that cannot be explained.”

Frey’s love of the figure in all its shapes permeates her drawings and sculpture. Unconcerned about conventional beauty, the artist embraced the human form in sculptures up to twelve feet high and filled the field of each of her drawings from top to bottom of the paper.

The artist’s work has been widely shown throughout the country at the Albany Museum of Art, Georgia; Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Alaska; The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; Avampato Discovery Museum, Charleston, West Virginia; Bayly Art Museum, Charlottesville, Virginia; Brevard Museum of Art and Science, Melbourne, Florida; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina; Center for the Arts, Vero Beach, Florida; Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, Illinois; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Dahl Fine Arts Center, Rapid City, South Dakota; DeCordova and Dana Museum and Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts; Fresno Museum of Art, California; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey; Heckscher Museum, Huntington, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York; Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana; Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C.; Madison Art Center, Wisconsin; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama; Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, Georgia; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Museum of Ceramic Art, Baltimore, Maryland; Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art, Snug Harbor Cultural Center, New York; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach; Oakland Museum of Art, California; Pewabic Pottery, Detroit; Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Queens Museum, New York; St. Louis Museum of Art, Missouri; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Santa Barbara Museum, California; Seattle Art Museum, Washington; Smithsonian Institution, Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Tucson Museum of Art, Arizona; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Wichita Center for the Arts, Kansas; among others; and abroad at the American Center, Paris; Hall du Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris, Victoria and Albert Museum in London; and in Japan at Daimaru Museum of Art, Osaka-Umeda; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo; LaForet Museum, Koto-ku, Tokyo; The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo; The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shiga.

Viola Frey’s work is represented in numerous public collections, among them; The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; The Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York; Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; Gardiner Museum, Toronto; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Long Beach Museum of Art, California; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, Minnesota; Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, Georgia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Norton Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Oakland Museum, California; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California; Palm Springs Art Museum, California; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin; The Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville; Western Gallery, Western Washington University, Bellingham; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Wichita Center for the Arts, Kansas. Abroad, her work is included in the collections of Manufacture de Sevres, Paris; Museum Bellrive, Zurich and The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shiga, Japan. Viola Frey was born in Lodi, California in 1933; she died in 2004. She attended Tulane University and received a B.F.A. and an Honorary Doctorate from California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland. She was awarded two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and received the Award of Honor in Sculpture from the Arts Commission of San Francisco, as well as numerous other grants and awards. This exhibition has been organized in conjunction with the Artists’ Legacy Foundation, Oakland, California.

For additional information and/or photographs, please call 212-966-6676 or e-mail Nancy Hoffman Gallery at info@nancyhoffmangallery.com. Yours sincerely, Nancy Hoffman

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