kaufmann repetto announces Magdalena Suarez Frimkess’ first exhibition at the gallery. Suarez Frimkess (B. 1929 in Caracas, Venezuela) is a ceramicist based in Venice, California. The artist began working collaboratively in the 1960s in New York, glazing the pottery of her husband before starting to produce sculptures and hand-formed pots independently in the 1970s.
While the artist’s ceramics collaborations with her husband, Michael Frimkess, have drawn the attention of museums and institutions for many years — their works are in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the Smi- thsonian, among others — the 87-year-old artist only recently began to exhibit her work independently, starting with a solo exhibition at White Columns, New York, in 2014.
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess paints the surfaces of her pots with elaborate glazed compositions. Her earliest works depicted quotidian scenes borrowed from Mayan and Aztec codices, until the late 1970s, when she began to adorn her ceramics with cartoon characters, advertising slogans, and family snapshots. In her choice of motifs, the Venezuelan-born artist seems entirely unbound by convention: so inclined to paint one pot with scenes from Greco-Roman pottery followed by Mickey and Minnie Mouse dancing the swing upon the next. Though the artist often returns to a similar imagery, she never outlines her subjects in advance, instead acting intuitively upon each work. Despite the immediate sense of light-heartedness within her subjects, there is often an underlying sinister quality as well, as evident in works like those depicting the kidnapping of Olive Oyl or in the one where the cartoon character is portrayed dangling above a school of sharks.
The stories that the artist depicts may not be wholly autobiographical but her life has been eventful and distinctive. Suarez Frimkess was born in Venezuela where she first began painting; she then moved to study in Chile with artist Paul Harris, who was so taken by her work that he described her as “the most daring sculptor now working in Chile” in an article published in Art in America in 1962. Harris subsequently arranged for her to receive a fellowship to study in the United States.
In 1963, she moved to study at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, N.Y., and there met Michael Frimkess, who would later be- come her husband. Their fifty-year collaboration constitutes a compelling body of work that resonates with many genres—an- tiquated pottery, mythology, pop, outsider art — all of which meet in a unique renewal and innovation of the ceramic tradition.