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Michael Frimkess

Biography to Display: 

1937Born Los Angeles, California

EDUCATION

1954-1957Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design, Otis Art Institute), Los Angeles, California

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE

1963Clay Art Center, Port Chester, New York

1977NEA Fellowship

1979U.S./U.K. Bicentennial Fellowship

 

Michael Frimkess is known for his thin walled classic pots often in the form of  Greek urns, hydras and krater amphorae; Chinese ginger jars;  Zuñi Native American bowls, and Peruvian pottery.

Frimkess believed he had discovered the techniques of Greek pots including the black body with red figure decoration.  He threw his Greek forms in dry stoneware because he thought it to be the original method used by ancient potters.  The bleeding and split fingers resulting from this process made these pots, with camp red figure decoration, all the more poignant. The Chinese ginger jar forms are first covered with white slip then decorated with china paint over low fired glazes.  In both cases California imagery of contemporary narrative icons  are a carefully chosen mix of high art execution of classic form and popular culture.  His subject matter may appear whimsical, but, remains a social commentary on corruption, war, intolerance and questions of human influence on ecology. These classic vessels with narrative surface decoration were called, “melting pots”.  In the mid 1970’s Frimkess produced four-foot –high stacks by combining vessels forms of several ceramic cultures.  These were also called “melting pots” or “hookahs” and represented a desire to encourage harmony among cultures.

      Michael Frimkess studied with Peter Voulkos at Otis from 1955 to 1957. 

Frimkess’ signature style, consisting of small figures mimicking classical friezes, was further developed by his wife Magdalena Suarez Frimkess.  After 1971, as Frimkess’ Multiple Sclerosis progressed, Suarez Frimkess did most of the painting of the vessels. She brought her point of view to the narratives found on his pots.  She had no problem painting a geisha hanging out with Popeye, reworked Bible stories or images drawn from classic literature.

In bridging contemporary culture and ancient forms Frimkess created objects that encouraged discussion of art history and pop culture.

An interview with Michael and Magdalena Frimkess conducted March 2, 22 and April 17, 2001 by Paul J. Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America is available at;
http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-michael-and-magdalena-suarez-frimkess-13128.

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

Marer Collection, Scripps College, Claremont, California

Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York

Scripps College, Claremont, California

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Clark, Garth, Hughto, Margie. A Century of Ceramics in the United States 1878-1978 a Study of its Development. New York, NY: E.P. Dutton in association with The Everson Museum of Art, 1979.

Del Vecchio, Mark. New York, NY. Postmodern Ceramics.  New York, NY: Hudson & Thames, 2001.

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics: From Pipkins and Bean Pots to Contemporary Forms / 1607 to the Present. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams Inc.,  1988. 

Lynn, Martha Drexler. San Francisco, CA. Today: Contemporary Ceramists and Their Work, a Catalogue of the Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1990.

Manhart, Marcia and Tom, Haralson, eds. The Eloquent Object the Evolution of American Art in Craft Media Since 1994. Tulsa, OK: The Philbrook Museum of Art, 1997.

Peterson, Susan. The Craft and Art of Clay. Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 2000.

Smith, Paul J.  and Edward Lucie-Smith. Craft Today Poetry of the Physical. New York, NY: Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1986.

 

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download
Source: Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download
Source: Elaine Levin Archives, University of Southern California

 

Typical Marks
1960
1970
1997
2007
Platter
Date: 1958
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.36, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.36, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Platter
Date: 1960
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.2, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.2, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1961
Form: Vase
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.19, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.19, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Lidded Jar
Date: 1968
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 83.2.3ab, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 83.2.3ab, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Lidded Container
Date: 1970
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Slab Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.23, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.23, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
White Bottle
Date: 1972
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.40, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.40, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1974
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.4, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.4, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Teapot with Camel Lid
Date: 1974
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.26, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.26, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Ecology Krater, Biking with Aunt Samantha
Date: 1976
Form: Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC
Vessel
Date: 1997
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,98.1.4, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection,98.1.4, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Geometric Floral Vase
Date: 2006
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy nevica.com
Courtesy nevica.com
White Floral Vase
Date: 2008
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy nevica.com
Courtesy nevica.com
Bottle
Form: Bottle
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Overglaze, Underglaze
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archive, University of Southern California
Vase
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.38, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.38, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. And Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.37, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. And Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.37, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Red Bowl
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.17, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.17, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 78.1.213, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 78.1.213, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Bowl with Wing Handles
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown and Altered, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.24, Scripps  College
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.24, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.200, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.200, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Lidded Container
Form: Covered Jar
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Slip Trailing
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.32, Scripps  College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.32, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.39, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.39, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Vessel
Form: Bowl
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.15, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer Collection, 92.1.15, Scripps College
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Black Floral Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy nevica.com
Courtesy nevica.com

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified September 12, 2019. http://www.themarksproject.org:443/marks/frimkess