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Michael Frimkess

American, b. 1937

Magdalena Suarez Frimkess

Venezuelan, b. 1929

For Popsicle Pete

Stoneware with polychrome glaze
20 x 5.75 x 5.75 in.
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Few potters have explored the overlap between ceramics and popular culture as have the husband-and-wife duo Michael Frimkess and Magdelena Suarez Frimkess. In For Popsicle Pete, Frimkess’s form resonates with classical Greek vessels, which his wife decorates with images from popular advertising, comic books, and mythology. The vessel’s neck depicts a Chinese dragon perched atop a four-sided body, each side showcasing different popular images. The titular figure refers to an advertising figure from the mid-twentieth century created by the Popsicle Corporation as the embodiment of the typical American boy. Other figures include the little-known Marvel character Homer the Happy Ghost, who was produced to capitalize on the popularity of Casper the Friendly Ghost, created by a rival company. The combination of classical vessels with contemporary imagery encouraged potent commentary addressing politics, corruption, capitalism, and ecology.

Magdelena Suarez was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1929. She trained in painting at the School of Plastic Arts in Venezuela, and later attended the Pontifical Catholic University in Santiago, Chile, to study sculpture and painting. In 1963, she was offered a fellowship at the Clay Art Center in New York City, where she met Michael Frimkess. They married and began a lifelong collaboration, establishing a studio together in Venice, California. Michael Frimkess was born into a Jewish family in Los Angeles, California, in 1937. He studied with Peter Voulkos at Otis College of Art and Design and the University of California, Berkeley, and was a key member of the cohort of young ceramists in Voulkos’s circle, including Ken Price, John Mason, and Billy Al Bengston.

Matthew Limb

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