A fiercely independent artist up to her passing in 2004, Viola Frey is perhaps most widely known for her larger than life figurative ceramic sculptures. This exhibition offers a long overdue opportunity to trace the artist’s career through a chronological progression of work spanning five decades in a range of media, many of which have never been shown publicly. The artist’s wide-ranging interests across identity, class, culture, consumerism, environmental issues, and most notably, an undeniable undercurrent of a feminist statement that placed women at the fore, parallel many of the most pressing issues of our day. What is revealed is a fresh overview of an artist working far ahead of her time.
The exhibition marks the artist’s first major institutional survey on the West Coast since 1981 and includes over 100 works of art in ceramic, painting, drawing, photography, and bronze, offering a unique opportunity to present this important body of work to a new generation. Monumental ceramic works including The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization(1992) and China Goddess Group(1979-81) will be shown alongside early works from the 1960s and ‘70s for the first time, presenting an unprecedented look at the artist’s thinking and process. This large-scale presentation will occupy di Rosa’s 8,500-square-foot Gallery 2 exhibition space marking the first time the gallery has been devoted to the work of a single artist. The exhibition draws from a mix of di Rosa’s extensive holdings with generous loans from Artists’ Legacy Foundation and private collections.
Viola Frey was born in Lodi, California in 1933, and died in Oakland in 2004. She received her BFA and an honorary doctorate from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and attended graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans. 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 many other grants and awards. Frey’s work is held in numerous public and private collections worldwide.
Viola Frey: Center Stage has been curated by Amy Owen in conjunction with Artists’ Legacy Foundation, Oakland, California. www.artistslegacyfoundation.org.
Major Support is provided by Artists’ Legacy Foundation and Dana Simpson-Stokes and Ken Stokes. Additional support is provided by Blow Up Lab and di Rosa’s Patrons Circle.
This is the first in a series of major solo exhibitions rolling out over 2019 and 2020 focusing on three singular artistic voices in Northern California art history. Shining a light on the remarkable output of Viola Frey, Jean Conner, and Deborah Remington, with a focus on their years living and working in the Bay Area, this series highlights the artists’ shared impulse to draw artistic inspiration from the personal, cultural, and environmental realms and interests that shaped their world views alongside critical aspects of the region that allowed their work to develop and flourish. While their practices may not be viewed as overtly feminist, their distinct approaches to art making and their strong independent spirits demonstrate a less considered approach to feminism, one that is rooted in lived experience and fierce determination.
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