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First Comprehensive Assessment of Viola Frey's Career Opens at the Gardiner Museum
Viola Frey, Studio View - Woman and Vase, 1982. Alkyd oil on canvas. ALF-VF-0146PT. Collection of Artists' Legacy Foundation, Oakland. Photography by Michael Tropea, Chicago Art © Artists' Legacy Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

TORONTO, ON.- California-based artist Viola Frey (1933 – 2004) broke new ground by creating monumental figurative sculptures in clay that served to elevate the status of ceramics as an art form in the second half of the 20th century.

The Gardiner Museum presents Bigger, Better, More: The Art of Viola Frey (September 10, 2009 to January 10, 2010), the first comprehensive assessment of Frey’s career and legacy since her death in 2004.

This ground-breaking exhibition features 22 works in a variety of media from leading public and private collections in the United States including the Artists’ Legacy Foundation, the Nancy Hoffman Gallery, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Frey first established her reputation in the late 1960s with a series of ceramic sculptures featuring quirky assemblages of images inspired by objects found in local flea markets. In the late 1970s, she began to move away from assemblage sculptures and concentrated on creating large-scale figures. These larger-than-life sculptures typically depict contemporary men and women in stiff, awkward poses that directly engage and involve viewers. The surfaces are usually painted in bold primary colours that further enhance their visual appeal and emotional impact.

Frey was a revolutionary who broke through the theoretical boundaries between art and craft. Although her monumental figures attracted national and international acclaim Frey also created a strong body of paintings and drawings and experimented with photography, bronze casting and glass sculpting.

According to Gardiner Museum Executive Director Alexandra Montgomery, “Bigger, Better, More offers a rare opportunity to see some of Viola Frey’s most extraordinary work. Frey has a wide appeal as her work provides a provocative commentary on life in 20th century American and engages those with an interest in modern art and/or figurative sculpture as well as ceramics.”

Bigger, Better, More: The Art of Viola Frey is co-organized by the Gardiner Museum and the Racine Art Museum in Racine Wisconsin. It will also travel to the Museum of Art and Design in New York City and the Arkansas Arts Centre in Little Rock.

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