Latest

Viola Frey: Works on Paper & Ceramics (1980-1989) @ Frieze London 2020

GAVLAK gallery is pleased to announce our partnership with the Artists’ Legacy Foundation to promote Viola Frey‘s estate and preserve the legacy of her practice. Accordingly, we are proud to participate in this year’s edition of Frieze Masters and present Viola Frey: Works on Paper & Ceramics (1980-1989,) a posthumous solo exhibition of the American sculptor and painter. This marks the artist’s first exhibition in London.

Viola Frey is best known for her larger-than-life, colorfully glazed ceramic sculptures of men and women that expanded the traditional limitations of ceramics in the 1960s and 1970s. She was a leading figure of the Funk art movement that debuted in the same period in Northern California and combined both painting and sculpture. During her formative years, she studied under talented artists such as the painter Mark Rothko, sculptor George Rickey and clay artist Katherine Choy who was actively engaged with the advancement of ceramic arts and established the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY in 1957.

Whereas the 1960s were years of survival in which Frey had to sacrifice much to find the time for her art, in the 1970s art became her full focus. Moving back and forth between painting and ceramics, Frey was energized by the possibilities of both media. She was drawn to the human figure as a subject and to the rich effects of color, expressed in bold ceramics as her primary medium, the one for which she is best known today.

Over the course of her five-decade career, Viola Frey produced a body of artwork ranging from ceramic and bronze sculptures, to paintings, drawings, and includes explorations in the mediums of glass and photography. With this presentation, GAVLAK will bring light to the artist’s largely overlooked, yet equally impressive works and will share the artist’s pastel on paper, paintings, and drawings with a wider audience.

Viola Frey: Works on Paper & Ceramics (1980-1989) comprises twelve works on paper. These lesser known works carry the powerful psychological undertones, heightened palette, and personal iconography present in Frey’s sculptures. The massive men characteristically appear in generic suits and ties, while the large female figures are often depicted in heavily patterned, 1950s-style dresses. Some of these works also include nudes, a form which Frey explored at different times in her life. Frey’s nudes are not idealized, nor are they total abstractions. The body language of the reclining nudes is anything but idealized. These nudes project distress, pain, and vulnerability. Although Frey’s artworks often borrows from the impressionists’ bright color palette, they convey a more serious and moody undertone. Most of her work remains enigmatic.

Frey was a passionate collector. Along with fine art, china, and books, she collected figurines and knick-knacks found at flea markets. This hoarding mentality would later become the conceptual foundation for some of Frey’s most innovative and inspired work. A selection of ceramic and glazes creations resulting from this process will be part of the exhibition. Slip-cast in whiteware from existing figurines, these assemblages are referred to as “bricolage”. In French, a bricoleur or bricoleuse is someone who performs odd handiwork around the house. Although the subtle nuances of these words are not fully translatable into English, the literal meaning of bricolage is the thing a bricoleur patches together out of trash or junk. Frey’s bricolage pieces reinvest value in what is commonly devalued in our throwaway culture. This is particularly representative of the ethics embedded within the Funk art movement, which was very critical of the booming consumer culture of the time. With these made from junk pieces, Frey created a complex personal iconography that explores power and gender dynamics.

Frey dedicated her whole life to her art, she worked from her Oakland studio in Northern California until the day of her death on July 26, 2004. In her will, she gifted her whole estate to the Artists’ Legacy Foundation that she had co-founded in 2000 along with painter Squeak Carnwath and community advocate Gary Knecht. Viola Frey left behind an impressive body of work that deserves ongoing re-evaluation. By not yielding to the mindset that art and craft are enemies, at worst, or separate and unequal art forms, at best, Frey loosened the artistic constraints that fettered both painting and ceramics. This is her lasting legacy.

Viola Frey (1933–2004), a painter and sculptor, was born and raised in a farm in Lodi, CA. The artist went on to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she graduated with a BFA in 1956. She then studied in New Orleans under Mark Rothko and George Rickey at Tulane University and left for New York in 1957 before finishing her graduate degree. There she joined Katherine Choy who had recently founded the Clay Art Center in Port Chester. Viola Frey was a pioneer in bridging the barrier between craft and fine art to push forward the medium of ceramic sculpture in the 1960s and 1970s. A lifelong teacher and maker, she retired as professor emerita from California College of the Arts in 1999, co-founded Artists’ Legacy Foundation in 2000, and continued to work until she passed away at the age of 70 in Oakland, CA. Her works are included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

HEAR WITH A FEELING EAR, FEEL WITH A HEARING HAND: AN INTERVIEW OF MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST JÓNSI

Interview done for Autre.love

Vocalist, guitarist and interdisciplinary artist Jónsi has entertained a fascination for sound for most of his life, his more well-known output being the Icelandic, experimental band Sigur Rós. The indelible contribution that this band has had on the world of contemporary music is undeniable. The release of their 1999’s album Ágætis byrjun changed the landscape and the very definition of ambient music. Jónsi’s intentions have remained the same since his first experiments with sounds; “changing the way people think about music.” For his first exhibition at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Jónsi plays on multiple senses with a series of immersive installations where visitors can individually experience smell, hearing and sight in a public setting. I had the chance to ask Jónsi a few questions about his show and his personal relationship to sound.

Agathe Pinard: Walking into the main room of the gallery, you are immersed into a white room with sterile light reminiscent of Kubrick’s last scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey while hidden speakers emanate sounds. I know you also hosted a couple of ‘Luminal’ sound baths. Where does your interest in making sound baths originate from ?

Jónsi: For the entirety of my career I have been interested in sound, sonic experiences and what it means. In every iteration of my artistic practice I have explored sound, what it feels like and what sensations it brings to the surface.

Pinard: With what idea in mind did you create the sound projected in the white room and the one in the dark room ?

Jónsi: Each of these works has a different impetus, but they share so many common threads, which I believe run through the entire show and throughout my work in general. These are sound- based installations, but they activate the senses in more than one way– using sound of course, but also sight, scent, and even the air moving through the room. Each of these works references the natural world on multiple levels, and functions as an abstract representation of our relation to nature. At the end, the sensorial is what inevitably connects us to the natural world.

Pinard: Could you describe the smell you decided to associate with each room and why?

Jónsi: In Hvítblinda (Whiteout) I was thinking about the idea of a whiteout as it occurs in nature– a situation where the earth and the sky blend into each other to the point that the horizon disappears. The odor component in the room is ozone, which occurs in nature right before the rain begins. Svartalda (Dark wave) references the ocean: the ceiling panels move like a wave and part of the sound installation includes a recitation of an Icelandic poem about the sea. Here there is a seaweed scent which is an odorous reference to the sea.

Pinard: How does being submerged in a brightly lit white room as opposed to a dark pitched one affect a person?
Jónsi: Obviously each lighting situation affects the viewer differently. The sound component of each space enhances the experience of the space, together with the smell. But I think that in all the works in the show it there is an overall effect that goes beyond the visual.

Pinard: Your first solo show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is meant to be challenging to the senses – sight, sound, touch. It’s sort of a meditative, solo experience where the visitor is encouraged to focus on its senses while also sharing this experience with other people in the room. How do you want people to experience your work?

Jónsi: Sight, sound, smell are all intangible things that are part of the communal realm. While each of us experiences them individually, and maybe differently, these are things we cannot touch, or quantify, or have be entirely ours. The works in the show allow the viewer to have a very intimate and personal experience which is set in a public surrounding. It opens up ways to experience the distinctly personal together with other people.

Pinard: Your whole work of art is filled with vocal and instrumental approaches, from playing in your band Sigur Rós to creating movie scores to this show. How would you describe your own relationship to sound?

Jónsi: I think it is fascinating to work with something so intangible and invisible as sound but at the same time it moves you in some inexplicable and unexplainable way. Thats why sound is magical.

Pinard: Can you talk about the concept behind Í blóma ?

Jónsi: This work, like the others, is rooted in sound and in my ongoing exploration of it. The shape of the piece resembles the foxglove flower which is toxic but can also be used for healing and that’s a dichotomy I find interesting. Here there are field recordings of the actual flowers, and these recordings are layered with different recordings of my own voice. In the show there is a certain negotiation with the world we live in through sound, through nature, through the senses. It goes back and forth between the works and the viewer.

Pinard: Butt plugs are present in different sculptures in the show either made of glass or chrome-plated, why did you choose to incorporate this particular object into your work?

Jónsi: The human body is part of nature and throughout the show there are references to the body and to its physicality, in various degrees. The sexual body is a sensual organism, and bringing this idea forth is a large part of the exhibition.

Jónsi’s exhibition is on view through through January 9, 2020 at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery 1010 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles