Manuel Neri

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Manuel Neri
Manuel Neri Italy 1983.jpg
Sculptor Manuel Neri in his Carrara, Italy studio, 1983, photo by Sally Larsen
Born John Manuel Neri
(1930-04-12) April 12, 1930 (age 87)
Sanger, California
Nationality American
Education California College of Arts and Crafts (1951–1952; 1955-1956),
California School of Fine Arts (1956-1958)
Known for Sculpture, also drawing, painting and printmaking
Movement Bay Area Figurative Movement
Awards Guggenheim Foundation - Fellowship (1979)
National Endowment for the Arts - Individual Artist Grant (1980)
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters – Award in Art (1982)
San Francisco Arts Commission – Outstanding Achievement in Sculpture (1985)
San Francisco Art Institute – Honorary Doctorate (1990)
California College of Arts and Crafts – Honorary Doctorate (1992)
Corcoran School of Art – Honorary Doctorate (1995)
Orange County Museum of Art - Distinguished Artist Award (1999)
International Sculpture Center - Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture (2006)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - Bay Area Treasure (2008)

Manuel Neri (born April 12, 1930) is an American sculptor who is recognized for his life-size figurative sculptures in plaster, bronze, and marble, as well as for his association with the Bay Area Figurative Movement during the 1960s. In Neri's work with the figure, he conveys an emotional inner state that is revealed through body language and gesture. Since 1965 his studio has been in Benicia, California; in 1981 he purchased a studio in Carrara, Italy, for working in marble. During the past four decades, Neri has worked primarily with the same model, Mary Julia, creating drawings and sculptures that merge contemporary sculptural concerns with classical forms.


Neri was born in Sanger, California, to immigrant parents who left Mexico during political unrest following the Mexican Revolution. He began attending college at San Francisco City College in 1950, initially studying to be an electrical engineer. A class in ceramics with Peter Voulkos inspired him to continue his art studies. He enrolled at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and at California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). Neri studied under Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, and Frank Lobdell, among others. He began to create life-sized figurative sculptures in plaster and mixed media, their surfaces often painted to accentuate the forms and gestures.[1]

In the late 1950s, Manuel Neri was a member of the artist-run cooperative gallery, Six Gallery in San Francisco, along with Joan Brown, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, and other artists. In October 1955, he helped organize "6 Poets at 6 Gallery" Six Gallery reading, a landmark Beat era event where Allen Ginsberg gave the first public reading of Howl. In 1959, Neri was an original member of Bruce Conner's Rat Bastard Protective Association.[2]

Neri taught sculpture and ceramics at California School of Fine Arts from 1959–1965, and taught classes in the art department at UC Berkeley in 1963-1964. He was a member of the art department faculty at the University of California, Davis from 1965-1999.[1]

In 2006, Neri was a recipient of the International Sculpture Center's Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture. In 2008 he received the Bay Area Treasure Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Previous awards include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (1979), National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grant (1980), American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Academy-Institute Award in Art (1982), San Francisco Arts Commission Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sculpture (1985), and Orange County Museum of Art Distinguished Artist Award (Newport Beach, CA, 1999). He received Honorary Doctorates from the San Francisco Art Institute (1990), California College of Arts and Crafts (1992), and The Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C. (1995).[3]


Manuel Neri creates figurative sculptures in plaster, marble, bronze, and clay, their surfaces often, sanded, chipped, or painted as a means of directing the gestural thrust. [1][dead link] Beginning in the late 1970s, Neri has also worked in marble, creating numerous figures, torsos, and heads at his studio in Carrara. He is also noted as a draftsman and a collaborator on artist's books. His early works also included paintings and mixed-media sculptures based on abstracted figurative or architectural forms.[4] Neri has received sculpture commissions from the Office of the State Architect, State of California, for The Bateson Building, Sacramento (1980-1982); US General Services Administration for the U.S. Courthouse, Portland, Oregon (1987); Laumeier Sculpture Park, Sunset Hills, Mo. (1994); Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, for the Gerdin Building (2003); St. Anne's Church, Seattle, WA (2003), and others. Neri is represented by Hacket Mill Gallery, San Francisco; Robischon Gallery, Denver; Riva Yares Gallery, Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Yares Art Projects in Santa Fe, N.M., Palm Springs, Calif., and New York City.

Work in Public Collections[edit]

Museums holding works by Manuel Neri include Art Institute of Chicago; Denver Art Museum; Di rosa, Napa, California; El Museo Mexicano, San Francisco; El Paso Museum of Art, Texas; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey; Honolulu Museum of Art; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Laumeier Sculpture Park, Sunset Hills, Mo.; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Oakland Museum of California; Palm Springs Art Museum, California; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; San Diego Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Seattle Art Museum; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.; and others.

Personal life[edit]

Manuel Neri had several marriages, including a marriage to painter Joan Brown from 1962–1966 (though their relationship and artistic collaboration dated back several years prior to that.) He has seven children: Raoul, Laticia, Noel, Max, Ruby, Julia, and Gus. [2] [3][dead link] Neri currently lives in Benicia, California.


  1. ^ a b Artist Forum. 'Manuel Neri'. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
  2. ^ Its members included Jay de Feo, Michael McClure, Manuel Neri and Joan Brown. See Rebecca Solnit, ‘Heretical Constellations: Notes on California, 1946–61’, in Sussman, ed., Beat Culture and the New America, 69–122, especially 71.
  3. ^ International Sculpture Center website. 'Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award page'. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
  4. ^ Kramer, H. (27 February 1981). 'Art: First solo show for Manuel Neri', New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2010.


  • Albright, Thomas. Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945–1980. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985 (ISBN 0-520-05193-9).
  • Cancel, Luis R., et al. The Latin American Spirit: Art and Artists in the United States, 1920–1970. Bronx: Bronx Museum of the Arts and Harry N. Abrams, 1988 (ISBN 978-0810912717).
  • Cowart, Jack, and Price Amerson. Manuel Neri: A Sculptor's Drawings. Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1994 (ISBN 978-0886750411).
  • Cowart, Jack; Price Amerson; John Beardsley; Henry Geldzahler; Robert Pincus. Manuel Neri: Early Work 1953–1978. Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1996 (ISBN 0-88675-046-6).
  • Cowart, Jack. Manuel Neri: Paintings and Painted Papers. Washington, DC: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2001 (ISBN 0-88675-064-4).
  • Geldzahler, Henry. Manuel Neri: Sculpture, Painted and Unpainted. Bridgehampton, NY: Dia Center for the Arts, 1993 (ASIN B000L9JN5I).
  • Guenther, Bruce. The Essential Gesture. Newport Beach, CA: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1994.
  • Herskovic, Marika Abstract and Figurative Expressionism: Style is Timely Art is Timeless (New York School Press, 2009.) ISBN 978-0-9677994-2-1. p. 180-183
  • Jones, Caroline A. Bay Area Figurative Art: 1950–1965. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989 (ISBN 0-520-06842-4).
  • Neubert, George. Manuel Neri, Sculptor. Oakland, CA: The Oakland Museum, 1976 (Library of Congress No. 76-40536).
  • Nixon, Bruce. Things That Dream: Contemporary Calligraphic Artists’ Books/Cosas que sueñan: Libros de artistas caligráficos contemporáneos. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 2012 (ISBN 978-0-911221-48-0).
  • Nixon, Bruce. Manuel Neri: Painted Bronzes and Plasters. San Francisco, CA: Hackett Freedman Gallery, 2005 (ISBN 1-933399-00-7).
  • Nixon, Bruce. Manuel Neri: Artists' Books/The Collaborative Process. San Francisco and New York: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in association with Hudson Hills Press, 2005 (ISBN 1-55595-261-5).
  • Nixon, Bruce, et al. Manuel Neri: The Figure in Relief. Hamilton, NJ: Grounds for Sculpture; Portland, OR: Portland Art Museum; San Jose, CA: San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art, in association with Hudson Hills Press, 2006 (ISBN 1-883124-26-3).
  • Paz, Octavio; John Beardsley, and Jane Livingston. Hispanic Art in the United States. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987 (ISBN 978-0896596887).
  • Plagens, Peter. Sunshine Muse. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974 (ISBN 978-0520223929).
  • Quirarte, Jacinto. Mexican American Artists. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973 (ISBN 978-0292750487).
  • Williams, Thomas. The Bay Area School: Californian Artists of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. London: Lund Humphries, 2013 (ISBN 978-1-84822-123-9).

See also[edit]

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