Viola Frey

(Lodi, California, 1933 - 2004, Oakland, California)

North America, American

Viola Frey was one of the key first-generation Northern California artists to use clay to create significant sculpture. Alongside artists such as Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson, Frey was a leading figure in expanding ceramics from a primarily utilitarian to an expressive medium. Frey earned a BFA in 1956 from California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) in Oakland and an MFA in 1958 from Tulane University in New Orleans, where she studied with George Rickey and Mark Rothko. While Frey adapted clay as her primary medium early in her career, she remained committed to painting as well, using whiteware or white-covered forms as three-dimensional surfaces on which to apply a rich array of colors. In 1965, Viola Frey joined the faculty of CCAC (now California College of Art), where she became a full professor and chair of the ceramics program. Following a traveling exhibition organized by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento that brought significant attention to Frey’s work, the artist was featured in numerous one-person traveling exhibitions, including those organized by the College of Art, Philadelphia; the Butler Institute of American Art; and the Racine Art Museum. Her work is included in many public collections, including those of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.


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