From the front flap:
In a long overdue full-length study, art critic Matthew Kangas brings to life the art of Robert Sperry (1972-1998). Known primarily as a postwar ceramic artist, Sperry was also a painter, sculptor, filmmaker, print-maker, and teacher. Drawing on heretofore unreleased original documents in the Robert Sperry Papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and other sources, Kangas helps the reader learn about he influential Pacific Northwest artist in Sperry’s own words: diaries, notebooks, letters and interviews. This copiously illustrated volume reveals the dynamic tensions within Sperry’s art and life including his high achievements that lead to international recognition and the Gold Medal of the International Academy of Ceramics in 1984.
Following a childhood on farms in Illinois and Saskatchewan, Robert Sperry emerged from the Midwest after studies at the university of Saskatchewan and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. An epochal summer at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana with Rudy Autio and Peter Voulkos was followed by graduate school in Seattle and a surprise appointment as ceramics head after the unexpected retirement of his teacher, Paul Ami Bonifas, a stern Swiss taskmaster.
For the next 30 years, Sperry taught full time and maintained at-home studios of increasingly lavish scale. While designing and creating thousands of artworks, Sperry also found time to spend five years making two important independent films that won several awards and were distributed widely: The Village Potters of Onda a classic documentary about Japanese folk pottery, and Profiles Cast Long Shadows, a Surrealistic psychodrama that was a hit on the 1960s film festival circuit. For the first time, Kangas explains the circumstances of how Sperry’s final film, The Room, was destroyed in a fit of depressive pique after two years’ filming, writing, editing and directing.
In addition to his creative innovations in pottery of the 1960s and 1970s, Sperry is best known for his public art murals made of preformed stoneware tiles covered with a special application of liquid clay. Along with the artist’s final wall plates and computer prints, these are given full discussion and analysis. Robert Sperry: Bright Abyss gives a panoramic view of a very important artist whose contribution to American ceramics and contemporary art are now secure.