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Robert Sperry



Stoneware with porcelain
3.5 x 27 x 27 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation with matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts

The centering spiral of Robert Sperry’s Platter coils its way across the textured surface, challenging functionality, creating a sculptural landscape through the crusty white slip atop a black stoneware glaze. Sperry, an artist who worked in the realms of painting, ceramics, digital prints, filmmaking, photography, printmaking, and sculpture, often pushed the boundaries of a medium to blur distinctions and hierarchies. Sperry saw ceramics as creatively equal to sculpture and other fine arts, and adapted techniques from other mediums to extend its aesthetic dimensions. In Platter, the footed stoneware piece becomes a terrain reminiscent of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty on the northwestern shore of the Great Salt Lake.

After beginning his studies at the University of Saskatchewan in 1950, Robert Sperry transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he completed his BFA in 1953. In 1954, he served as artist in residence at the Archie Bray Foundation. He became acquainted with Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio and embraced their expressionist approach to clay. Sperry attended the University of Washington for his MFA, which he completed in 1955, and was hired by the university upon graduation. An ardent experimentalist, Sperry, along with Patti Warashina, Howard Kottler, and Fred Bauer, transformed the program at the University of Washington into an influential center for ceramics on the West Coast. He and his colleagues fostered connections with the San Francisco Bay Area through introducing the Funk movement to Seattle.

Matthew Limb

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