Viola Frey  (American, 1933-2004) 

Viola Frey (American, 1933–2004), a painter and sculptor, was born and raised in Lodi, CA, where her family maintained a vineyard of zinfandel grapes. In her younger years, Frey often browsed art books from the local library and created watercolor pictures. She also depicted her friends and neighbors in drawings and oil paintings, which she would sell for 25 cents. At the age of 11, Frey was entered into a drawing show at the Sacramento Library for her copy of a drawing by Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954), a leader in the Fauvism movement and a painter she loved. Although this was a success for the young Frey, she then realized that she should draw in her own style instead of someone else's.

After graduating from high school, she was accepted to UC Berkeley, where she intended to become a writer. Frey wanted to attend Berkeley because it was a respectable school; however, because she felt that it was not a good fit for her, she instead attended Stockton College in California. Frey went on to study with a scholarship at the California College of Arts and Crafts, where she graduated in 1956 with a BFA in Fine Arts. In New Orleans, LA, two years later, she earned her MFA in Fine Arts from Tulane University, where she studied under Mark Rothko (Russian-American, 1903–1970), an Abstract Expressionist painter, and George Rickey (American, 1907–2002), a sculptor.

Frey primarily focused on ceramics, but applied glaze in the style of Abstract painters and incorporated knickknacks into the molds, making her work an original and defining addition to Modern Art. In the early 1960s, Frey continued to create sculptures and paintings while working as a billing clerk at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY. She returned to California in the mid-1960s, and taught ceramic arts at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

Frey's work has been displayed in both solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country and overseas, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, The Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio, and The Museum of Ceramic Art in Japan. Her notable works include the collection Viola Frey: Plates 1968–1994, which was exhibited on a countrywide tour, and the collection Larger than Life: Ceramic Figures by Viola Frey, which included colorful sculptures of nine-foot-tall men and women in a cartoonish style. Other pieces from Frey include Focus on the Figure and Relationships/Interrelationships, both of which she completed later in her life. Frey died in her home in Oakland, CA, at the age of 70.

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Viola Frey, Man and World


Viola Frey
Man and World

Rena Bransten Gallery
Viola Frey, Fallen Man


Viola Frey
Fallen Man
circa 1994

Rena Bransten Gallery
Viola Frey, Swimmer and One Posession


Viola Frey
Swimmer and One Posession

Art Resource Group
Viola Frey, Untitled


Viola Frey

Byron Cohen Gallery
Viola Frey, New Guinea Rain Forest


Viola Frey
New Guinea Rain Forest

Art Resource Group
Viola Frey, Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands


Viola Frey
Stubborn Woman, Orange Hands

Nancy Hoffman Gallery
Past auction results (76)  View All
Viola Frey, Sculpture with Cloud


Viola Frey
Sculpture with Cloud, 1972
glazed earthenware


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Viola Frey, Sculpture with Figures


Viola Frey
Sculpture with Figures, 1970
glazed eathenware


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Viola Frey, Western Civilization (in 2 parts)


Viola Frey
Western Civilization (in 2 parts), 1987
glazed ceramics


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  Stockton Delta College Stockton, CA
  NEA, Artist's Fellowship
  NEA Artist's Fellowship Grant in Sculpture
  Awards of Honor, Sculpture Arts Commission of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
  Born Lodi, CA
  BFA, California College of Arts and Crafts Oakland, CA
  MFA, Tulane University New Orleans, LA
2010   Legacy in Paint and Clay, Sylvia White Gallery
1999   Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1998   Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1997   Nancy Hoffman: A Perspective on Art, , Flanders Contemporary Art Minneapolis, MN
1994 - 1996   Viola Frey: Plates, Traveling Exhibition Ohio, New York, Washington, Texas
1995   Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1995   Carin Delcourt Van Krimpen Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1994   The Woman's Mentor Show, San Francisco Art Commission Gallery San Francisco, CA
1994   Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1993 - 1994   Interiors, Champion International Corporation Stamford, CT
1993   20 Years, Nancy Hoffman Galleries New York, NY
1993   Majolica, Jane Hartsook Gallery New York, NY
1993   Modernism: Craft Breakthrough in N. California, California Crafts Museum San Francisco, CA
1993   Summer Exhibition, Rena Bransten Gallery San Francisco, CA
1993   , Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1992   The Figure: Two Bay Area Artists, Christopher Brow, Gallery of Art, Johnson County Community College Overland Park, KS
1991   , Nancy Hoffman Gallery New York, NY
1987 - 1988   Asher/Faure Gallery Los Angeles, CA
1982   Mark Twain Bank Kansas City, Missouri
1980   Quay Gallery San Francisco, CA
1977   Wenger Gallery La Jolla, CA
1975   Hank Baum Gallery San Francisco, CA
1974   Wenger Gallery San Francisco, CA
1967   Contemporary Crafts Association Portland, OR
1964   "San Francisco Art Festival", San Farncisco, CA
1962   "California State Fair", Sacramento, CA
1961   "California Craftsmaen Bicentennial", Oakland, CA