Arts and Entertainment

Bellevue Arts Museum to show retrospective of Robert Sperry ceramics

Robert Sperry’s ‘Shell,’ 1974, thrown low-fire earthenware with black and pink low-fire glazes, underglaze decoration, and gold luster, 10 x 9 x 9, American Museum of Ceramic Art.  - Robert Vinnedge photo
Robert Sperry’s ‘Shell,’ 1974, thrown low-fire earthenware with black and pink low-fire glazes, underglaze decoration, and gold luster, 10 x 9 x 9, American Museum of Ceramic Art.
— image credit: Robert Vinnedge photo

The Bellevue Arts Museum will bring the work of one of ceramic’s great innovators: Robert Sperry to the area this fall.

Originally organized by the American Museum of Ceramic Art, the local presentation of this exhibition has been expanded to include pieces from public and private collections in the Northwest, giving a comprehensive panoramic view of Sperry’s legacy as a seminal contributor to American ceramics and contemporary art.

The exhibit features over 70 works of art, including platters, wall pieces and sculptures, examining Sperry’s lifelong dedication to ceramic art, and will be on view from October 10, 2009 through January 31, 2010.

Sperry, who taught ceramics at the University of Washington for over 30 years, is known as a master of the "crawl glaze," a decorative ceramic motif not unlike a parched and cracking lakebed. The technical difficulties of handling this particular glaze are considered monumental.

Oscillating between bold crackling black and white sculptures and colorful “funk” ceramics, the earthy simplicity of his earliest works and the scientific acuity of his final computer generated prints, Sperry’s body of work embodies the dichotomy of a bright abyss.

Celebrated primarily as a ceramic sculptor, Sperry was also a talented painter, filmmaker and printmaker. During his career he created a number of monumental public and corporate art murals and sculptures, including the iconic Safeco Corporation Pediment in Seattle. He also made a series of movies, among them the classic documentary Village Potters of Onda and the surrealistic psychodrama Profiles Cast Long Shadows.

The BAM exhibition is accompanied by a 270-page, full color catalogue written by renowned art critic Matthew Kangas, available for purchase in the Museum Store.

Robert Sperry: Bright Abyss has been organized and curated by the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, Calif. The local presentation of this exhibition has been curated by Stefano Catalani and made possible by the Thurston Charitable Foundation, Benaroya Company, The Boeing Company and the Benaroya Family Foundation.

Related programs

Symposium - The Legacies of Robert Sperry: Saturday, October 10, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A day of presentations exploring the many facets where respected Northwest artist Robert Sperry has left his mark.

Robert Sperry Film Series - Potters of Onda: Saturdays, November 7, 14, 21 and 28, 1 p.m.

Robert Sperry Film Series - Bob Sperry in Studio: Saturdays, December 12, 19 and 26, 1 p.m.

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