I hope that you enjoy learning about these amazing talents! And that you find them inspirational!
Manuel Neri (b. 1930) is one of the premier figurative sculptors working today. Born in Sanger, California, Neri began exploring new forms and materials in sculpture and painting in the early 1950s while studying in San Francisco. It was during this period that
such prominent Bay Area artists as David Park, Elmer Bischoff, and Richard Diebenkorn began to take a renewed interest in the human figure. Their efforts to combine the human form with abstract expressionist practice had a lasting influence on Neri.
Initially, Neri began sculpting in “junk”—burlap, wire, cardboard—and, soon thereafter, in simple plaster. His lone female figures, often in frankly erotic or naturalistic poses, were lauded immediately not only for their vitality and rawness but also for being simultaneously
contemporary and timeless. From the onset, Neri painted the “skin” of his figures with patches of bright color—a conscious bow, he has said, to the painted sculpture of Marino Marini and to the ceramics of Pablo Picasso, as well as to the visceral expressionism of Willem de Kooning.
Neri’s figures and abstractions on canvas and on paper are equally expressive. Rendered in oil, pastel, tempera, graphite, and charcoal, these works are, in the words of Jack Cowart, former chief curator of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the “record of an artist anxiously,
constantly, experimenting and visualizing his craft.”1 Some of Neri’s most important nonsculptural works include the “Window Series” paintings from the late 1950s and early 1960s, and a series of drawings dating from 1976 onward that feature a monumental figure placed in the center of a painted sheet.
Over the past twenty years, Neri has sculpted in Carrara marble even as he continues working in bronze, in some cases, adding brushstrokes of paint, scratches, and other marks atop the marble surface or bronze patina. Recent unpainted marbles are exceptionally notable for their monumentality
and sharp delineations between rough and polished surfaces, and their clear references to classical sculpture.
By casting, carving, and hand-painting his sculptures, Neri is able to explore the life processes of transformation and disintegration. According to writer Bruce Nixon, this “collision of hand and material is fundamentally existential … [and represents] a literal, physical effort to erase the gap between [artist and model].
Indeed, throughout Neri’s entire career, a lone, archetypal woman has been the vehicle for his most ambitious formal and symbolic goals.