Dorothy Shinn

The Canton Museum of Art has acquired a ceramic sculpture by internationally renowned artist Viola Frey.

Untitled Pot Bellied Fireman, named for the prominent fireman figure in the multimedia sculpture, was purchased by the museum earlier this month after it was made available through the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York. The new piece is currently on display in the museum lobby.

The acquisition was purchased in honor of Raymond & Rossetta Wilkof, recognizing their support of the Canton Museum of Art and the Stark County community.

Three works by Frey were featured in the museum’s fall 2015 opening exhibition, Beyond Craft, a national touring show from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Canton museum was one of only three venues to showcase this acclaimed collection of decorative arts from the Leatrice S. and Melvin B. Eagle Collection, which also featured major ceramic works by Peter Voulkos, Toshiko Takaezu, Robert Arneson, Ken Ferguson, and Adrian Saxe.

In Untitled Pot Bellied Fireman, Frey’s wry sense of humor is explored through intense abstractions. Measuring 25 by 18 by 12 inches, the piece consists of slip-cast glazed symbolic figures that the artist combined: an “every man” in a blue power suit observing a whimsical scene; a “kitsch” fireman and a “toy” football player; an Alice-in-Wonderland figure and a Raggedy Ann doll holding a horse.

The horse for Frey, and in many cultures, is the symbol of abundance. An elephant, another favorite symbol, symbolizes democracy.

The glazing in this work is restrained and in Frey’s best painting mode, uses a limited palette of blues and yellows with a touch of orange — all signature Frey colors.

Born in 1933 in Lodi, Calif., Frey died in Oakland, Calif., in 2004. She is well known for her large, colorfully glazed clay sculptures of men and women, which expanded the traditional boundaries of ceramic sculpture. Frey was one of a number of California artists working in clay in the 1950s and ’60s who turned away from that medium’s conventions to produce works with robust sculptural qualities associated with Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and what would come to be known as the California Funk movement. Bright colors and heavily textured surfaces are integral to Frey’s work. While some of her art is highly autobiographical in nature, her large figures deal with universal themes of social interaction in a complex world.

Frey’s work is held in numerous museum and private collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Seattle Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Ontario.

The Canton Museum of Art’s Permanent Collection is comprised of nearly 1,300 objects, focused on American works on paper from the 19th century forward—primarily watercolors — and contemporary ceramics from the 1950s forward.

Saturday

Tour — Join Fred Bidwell, former Akron Art Museum board of directors chair and acting director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, for a 2 p.m. tour at his and wife Laura’s own museum, Transformer Station, 1460 W. 29th St., Cleveland. Bidwell will take visitors through Unfixed: The Fugitive Image, which he curated, on view through April 3. He will talk about the show’s origins, his experience working with the artists and how, much like the work in the show, contemporary photography is constantly evolving. For more information, call 216-938-5429 or go to http://transformerstation.org.

Worth noting

Community Conversations — WKSU continues its regional series of open forums with WKSU’s Community Conversations at the Akron Art Museum from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 3. Attendees at the free event will be encouraged to contribute topics and issues they feel deserve increased attention. Registration through the Community Conversations page at WKSU.org is requested to reserve seating. This is the third of an ongoing series of discussions in locations throughout Northeast Ohio. Because the Akron Art Museum opens its galleries for free on Thursdays, Community Conversations participants will be able to take in current exhibits as well. In Akron, WKSU News Director Andrew Meyer, Program Director Ele Ellis and Morning Edition host Amanda Rabinowitz will take an active role in the discussion, describing WKSU’s typical news day and answering questions from the attendees. Information on current events and results from WKSU’s Community Conversations that have taken place are available online at www.WKSU.org and www.facebook.com/WKSUcommunity. Unable to register online? Call 330-346-5670 or email community@wksu.org.

Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or dtgshinn@att.net.