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Manuel Neri, Figurative Sculptor With a Trendy Twist, Dies at 91

Manuel Neri, Figurative Sculptor With a Modern Twist, Dies at 91

Manuel Neri, a famous San Francisco artist whose life-size figurative sculptures, usually painted and normally of ladies, evoked classical statuary whereas updating it for the twentieth century, died on Oct. 18 at his residence in Sacramento. He was 91.

His loss of life was confirmed by his daughter, the artist Ruby Neri.

Mr. Neri was a youthful presence within the Bay Space Figurative Motion, which encompassed a bunch of artists within the Fifties and ’60s who bucked the development towards Summary Expressionism and returned to figure-focused artwork. Its members included the painters Richard Diebenkorn and David Park and the sculptor and ceramicist Peter Voulkos. Mr. Neri studied with Mr. Diebenkorn and Mr. Voulkos, amongst others within the motion.

In plaster, bronze and different supplies, Mr. Neri rendered figures generally with out heads or arms and painted straight on the casts, incorporating scratched or textured detailing. His oeuvre centered on the feminine kind; the poet Mary Julia Klimenko was his mannequin for a lot of his profession.

“What distinguishes Mr. Neri’s artwork is the best way he has mixed the standard nude determine, executed in plaster, bronze and stone, with the pursuits — together with the colour pursuits — of portray,” the New York Instances critic Hilton Kramer wrote in 1981 on the event of Mr. Neri’s his first solo exhibition, on the Cowles Gallery in Manhattan.

“There’s thus a rare pressure — or, if you’ll, a dialectic — constructed into the very crux of his model,” Mr. Kramer continued. “This provides the work a really particular person dynamism, even when at instances it additionally leaves us with the impression of one thing teetering getting ready to dissolution.”

In a 2008 oral history with the Smithsonian Archives of American Artwork, Mr. Neri mentioned, “I’ve at all times been fascinated by physique language that folks have, what they are saying with their our bodies.”

His sculpture might have a harmful edge, the lacking limbs and torsos evoking the stays of Greek and Roman statuary, broken over time, seen in museums. However textured surfaces and blotches of vibrant coloration up to date Mr. Neri’s work for the twentieth century (although the appliance of coloration additionally harked again to the painted sculpture of antiquity).

Mr. Neri was a part of the energetic Beat scene in San Francisco within the Fifties and early ’60s. In 1954 he and a bunch of different artists established the Six Gallery, housed in a former car restore store on Fillmore Avenue. Mr. Neri was the director of the gallery when a landmark poetry studying passed off there in 1955: Allen Ginsburg giving the primary public recitation of his masterpiece, “Howl.”

Mr. Neri was one of many few Latinos within the American mainstream artwork world of the time. However, as he mentioned within the oral historical past, he didn’t essentially “join” with the label of Latino artwork: He located his work extra within the context of the Bay Space, the place he made his residence.

“I step out of 1 world into one other,” he mentioned. “I needed to make that change, however that flavoring, that Latino flavoring, will at all times be with me.”

Manuel John Neri Jr. was born in Sanger, Calif., in Fresno County, on April 12, 1930. His father was an agricultural employee. His mom, Guadalupe (Penilla) Neri, additionally labored in agriculture and was later employed at an electronics manufacturing facility. Each dad and mom had been immigrants from the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Mr. Neri attended Fremont Excessive College and graduated in 1950. He then signed up for courses at San Francisco Metropolis School.

“And simply out of dumb luck, I made a decision to take an artwork class for a simple grade,” he recalled. “And I met a beautiful man who modified my life.” That man was the artist Roy Walker, who launched him to Mr. Voulkos and gave him entree to the San Francisco artwork scene.

Mr. Neri went on to attend the College of California, Berkeley, and what’s now the California School of Arts. He served within the Military within the Korean Battle after which studied on the California College of Superb Arts (now the San Francisco Artwork Institute) on the G.I. Invoice. However he by no means accomplished a level.

From 1959 on, Mr. Neri taught at colleges across the Bay Space and later at Berkeley. He joined the artwork college on the College of California, Davis, in 1965 and held a instructing put up there till retiring in 1990.

For a few years he labored and lived within the Bay Space metropolis of Benicia in a former Unitarian church, which he transformed into a house and studio.

His marriages to Marilyn Hampton, the artist Joan Brown, Susan Morse and Kate Rohrock resulted in divorce.

Mr. Neri obtained quite a few accolades for his work, together with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Worldwide Sculpture Middle in Hamilton, N.J., in 2006. His works are within the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Artwork and the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Trendy Artwork and the Nationwide Gallery of Artwork in Washington.

He’s survived by his sister, Maria Clowser; his caretaker, Maria Elisa Cantu; his youngsters Raoul Neri, Laticia Souter, Noel Neri, Maximilian Neri, Ruby Neri, Julia Leonard and Gustavo Neri; and 7 grandchildren.

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