Curator‘s Comments

Viola Frey is best known as a ceramic sculptor, who created intensely colorful plates, bric-a-brac assemblage pieces, and monumental figures such as Man in Abstract Suit. She was also a painter, photographer, and printmaker.

Frey began creating large-scale figures in the late 1970s, noting that “like a Manhattan real estate developer: I had no place to go but up.” The male figures were outfitted in business suits, while the women—from society ladies to twin grandmothers—wore dresses.  Man in Abstract Suit has abstract forms painted in bright glazes on his trousers and suit jacket; painted figures curl around his shoulders and down his back. Later in her career, Frey made monumental figural groups, monochromatic white figures, and nudes.

Creating such large figures in clay was a considerable technical and engineering challenge. Man in Abstract Suit is made up of twenty component parts stacked and bolted atop the figure’s legs, which are bolted at the feet to a metal plate.

Man in Abstract Suit

Viola Frey. American, 1933–2004

Man in Abstract Suit, 1988

Polychromed ceramic

Gift of Jean Freiberg Bloch, class of 1945

ID Number: SC 2008:32 (1-20)