Marin MOCA presents Viola Frey: Her Self


  • Exhibit Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 70+ and students 18-21. Free for members
  • Adult Docent Tours: Wednesdays at 11:00 am and Saturdays at 2:00 pm, beginning on March 6.
  • Art Talk:

MarinMOCA is pleased to present “Viola Frey: Her Self,” opening on March 2 and running through April 21, 2019. Viola Frey is the legendary Bay Area artist best known for her monumental sculptures, but this exhibit will present viewers with a more intimate, down-to-earth point of view. The exhibit will focus on Frey’s self-portraits in multiple mediums, from drawings to oil paintings to ceramics, and includes work that spans over four decades of her career. The artwork on display has personal significance to the artist, and even when life-sized (Ms. Frey was less than 5 feet tall), visitors will be able to look her in the eye.

Visitors will see works created with rich symbolism and iconography, including her work gloves, boots and
flea market finds. Says Frey scholar Anita Ellis “It is a rare monographic exhibition that places the emphasis on the artist rather than the artwork. In “Viola Frey: Her Self,” that is exactly what is being done. The viewer is asked not simply to examine the art of Viola Frey, but more pointedly to explore Viola Frey exploring her self.”

The solo exhibition at MarinMOCA has been curated in conjunction with the Artists’ Legacy Foundation in Oakland, CA, and will be enhanced by loans from private collections. It commemorates the 15th anniversary of her passing in 2004. The public is invited to the Art Talk on Saturday, March 2, 4:00 pm: “Viola Frey: Her Self” – In conversation with Artists’ Legacy Foundation Co-Directors, Cynthia de Bos and Julia Schwartz, followed by the Opening Reception from 5:00-7:00 pm. An exhibition catalog featuring an essay by Frey scholar Anita Elliott is available for purchase.

Viola Frey (1933—2004)
Over the course of her five-decade career, Viola Frey created boldly-colored figurative sculptures, paintings and works on paper that reflect on contemporary culture, power, and gender dynamics. While most closely aligned with the Bay Area Funk movement, Frey’s immense creative output delves into many aesthetic directions. She used a distinctive, personal iconography and palette to depict human figures arrayed among objects of antiquity, flea market collectibles, and interior landscapes.

Frey was born in 1933 in Lodi, California. In 1951, she moved to Oakland and attended the California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC) and completed her BFA in 1955. She pursued an MFA in Painting at Tulane University, and studied under George Rickey, Katherine Choy, and visiting artist Mark Rothko. Frey taught at CCAC from 1964 to 1999. During her tenure, she served as the Ceramics Department chair and continuously championed the ceramic medium as an art form.

Among her many accomplishments, Frey was the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, a Masters of the Medium for Ceramics from the James Renwick Alliance, and an honorary Doctorate from CCAC.