August 30–November 8, 2008
Artist Reception: Saturday, September 13, 6-9pm
Robert Sperry, Bright Abyss is a retrospective exhibition of over 90 works of art from Sperry’s ceramic career including chargers, platters, wall plaques, sculptures, and murals. This show presents the evolution of one of ceramic’s great innovators. Sperry is known as a master of the “crawl glaze,” which is a decorative ceramic motif not unlike a parched and cracking lakebed. The technical difficulties of handling this particular glaze are monumental and speak to Sperry’s persistence in experimentation. Sperry’s signature bold crackling black and white sculptures represent the dichotomy of a bright abyss.
Robert Sperry (1927-1998) was born March 12 in Bushnell, IL and settled in Seattle, WA. He received his MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA in 1955. During that time he had a short residence at the Archie Bray Foundation in Missoula, MT where he had contact with two other legendary ceramists, Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio. His BFA was completed in 1953 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in Chicago IL.
Immediately following his studies, Sperry accepted a position as a Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle where he began teaching full time until 1983. Once he had become division head of the School of Art, he hired important instructors such as Fred Bauer, Patti Warashina, and Howard Kottler (1930-1989). In 1978, Warashina became Sperry’s second wife.
During his career, Sperry created a number of monumental public and corporate art murals and sculptures, which measure up to 40 feet wide, in states including New Jersey, Georgia, and Washington. Many of these works, with their bold crackling painterly surfaces, speak to his background as a painter.
Sperry continued teaching part-time as Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington by filling in for his colleagues on sabbaticals until 1998. At the university, in addition to being known for working in the realms of pottery, sculpture, painting, filmmaking, photography, public art, and digital prints, Sperry is remembered for strengthening the ceramics department and birthing a long line of ceramic instructors.