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Manuel Neri, Untitled (1988)
Mixed media (gouache, pastel, graphite) on paper
40 x 30 inches
Manuel Neri is one of the greatest living sculptors, having influenced his own generation and every one since. One of the surviving members of the “second generation” of Bay Area Figurative artists, Neri maintained a prominence in the art scene in San Francisco for decades.
He was born in Sanger, California on April 12th 1930 to Mexican immigrant parents. He was influenced and taught by Bay Area artists such as Elmer Nelson Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Frank Lobdell and David Park. This was during his brief studies at the California School of Fine Arts while in his twenties. He admired their attempts to combine abstract expressionism and a rediscovered interest in the human body and form.
His first forays into abstract sculpture in the early 50’s used junk materials like wire, burlap and cardboard. He then migrated to plaster, a medium he used for years to come in his unique figurative sculptures. He became known for his erotic and naturalistic sculptures of the female body. Sculptures rendered in rough plaster and often accentuated with a powerful splash of color, painted on with great energy.
Manuel Neri also experimented with bronze and marble for his sculptures. He purchased a studio in Italy in 1981 to so he could work with marble, as well as produce beautiful abstract figure pastels and paintings.
From 1959, Manuel Neri was teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, and taught for a while at UC Berkeley. From 1965 until 1999 he was a member of the art department at UC Davis, having his own studio in Benicia, California during the same time.
Artist Manuel Neri has used mostly the same model for the last 40 years, Mary Julia Kilmenko. He continues to produce sculptures, paintings and drawings, though his recent output has diminished. Commissioned to provide sculptures for institutions such as the State of California, Iowa State University, a courthouse in Portland, Oregon and more. Manuel Neri’s art is on display in venues across the United States and the world.
His artwork is also in several important museums in America. Two of note are The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Manuel Neri’s artwork has a revolutionary feel and a timeless quality. He was influential in his lengthy career, and as time passes he continues to be one of the great American sculptors.