Spring 1987: Peter Gourfain: Roundabout and Other Works, an exhibition of sculpture, drawings and paintings by the contemporary American artist, will open at The Brooklyn Museum on March 13. The 56 works focus mostly on the artist’s accomplishments of the last decade, when he abandoned Minimalist sculpture and began using bronze, wood and painted terracotta to depict figures engaged in a complete narrative on the human condition. The presentation, the artist’s first one-man museum exhibition, will be on view in the Museum’s Rotunda, located on the fifth floor, through May 11, 1987.
Peter Gourfain is probably best known for his large Minimalist sculptures of the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, in recent years he has turned to decorative, figural works that often combine sculpture with painting and relief. Roundabout, his monumental work that is the centerpiece of the exhibition, exemplifies the shift in Gourfain’s work. Created between 1976 and 1984, it is a large wooden wheel-like structure covered with intricate carvings and inserted bronze and terracotta reliefs depicting fantastic images of faces, figures, flora and fauna. Another example of the artist’s recent decorative work is the series of large ceramic urns he made in 1980. They are decorated in paint and relief with scenes depicting figures engaged in a wide variety of frequently bizarre activities and struggle.
In 1980, while teaching at Kent State University, in Ohio, Gourfain and his assistants made a series of 24 ceramic reliefs set in large oak doors, commemorating the death of four students who were killed on the campus by Ohio National Guard troops during an anti-Vietnam War demonstration. The doors, along with examples from his latest project, a series of 24 terracotta panels on the themeoOf ecology, are also included in the exhibition.
Gourfain was born in Chicago in 1934. He received a B.F.A. from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1956, and moved to New York in 1961. He has taught at the School of Visual Arts, New York, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, the Ontario College of Art, Toronto, Kent State University, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, among others. Since 1980, and in accordance with his desire to help the needy, he has taught ceramics, sculpture and painting as Recreation Director for the Division of Senior Centers of the City of New York. The artist has lived and worked in Brooklyn since 1974.
The exhibition was organized by Charlotta Kotik, Curator of Contemporary Art at The Brooklyn Museum. It has been made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Sidney Singer. An illustrated catalogue containing an essay by Mrs. Kotik, a checklist and a biography of the artist will accompany the show.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1987, 022-23.