This fall, Bellevue Arts Museum
brings to life the work of one of ceramics great innovators: Robert Sperry. Originally organized by the American Museum of Ceramic Art, the local presentation of this exhibition has been expanded to include pieces from public and private collections in the Northwest, giving a comprehensive panoramic view of Sperrys legacy as a seminal contributor to American ceramics and contemporary art. The exhibit features over 70 works of art, including platters, wall pieces and sculptures, examining Sperrys lifelong dedication to ceramic art, and will be on view from October 10, 2009 through January 31, 2010.
Sperry, who taught ceramics at the University of Washington for over 30 years, is known as a master of the "crawl glaze," a decorative ceramic motif not unlike a parched and cracking lakebed. The technical difficulties of handling this particular glaze are monumental and speak to Sperrys persistence in experimentation. Oscillating between bold crackling black and white sculptures and colorful funk ceramics, the earthy simplicity of his earliest works and the scientific acuity of his final computer generated prints, Sperrys body of work embodies the dichotomy of a bright abyss.
Celebrated primarily as a ceramic sculptor, Sperry was also a talented painter, filmmaker and printmaker. During his career he created a number of monumental public and corporate art murals and sculptures, including the iconic Safeco Corporation Pediment in Seattle, Washington. He also made a series of movies, among them the classic documentary Village Potters of Onda and the surrealistic psychodrama Profiles Cast Long Shadows.
Born in Bushnell, IL, Robert Sperry (1927-1998) completed his BFA in 1953 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During that time Sperry had a short residence at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT where he met two other legendary ceramicists, Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio. Sperry relocated to Seattle and received his MFA from the University of Washington in 1955. For the next 30 years, he taught ceramics at the University of Washington while at the same time designing and creating thousands of artworks. His high achievements in the field of ceramics led to international recognition and the Gold Medal of the International Academy of Ceramics in 1984.