San Francisco

Viola Frey

Rena Bransten Gallery

Since the early ’80s, Viola Frey has been prodding the outer surfaces of her ceramic sculptures to get the physical form together with a patchy, transfiguring impetus. In going for this extra vitality, she’s moved away from a prior refinement. Now thick, drawling paint and pitted overglazes coat the figurative contours, mimicking enlarged effects of light and shade, and suggesting internal anatomy, too. Sometimes the modeled forms are so swamped as to seem complicated supports for high-keyed painting; at best, however, the paint helps the eye follow each volume around from any angle so the figures’ three-dimensionality appears more blatant. It’s as if Frey were purposely reversing the procedure that Jean-Paul Sartre claimed for Alberto Giacometti’s thin people: she’s putting the fat back on space.

Of the eight ceramic pieces in this show (all 1987), five were isolated male or female figures

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