Manuel Neri: The Modernist Figure

Manuel Neri, the consummate figurative artist, has worked with few models. He assiduously learned the details of these women’s faces and bodies, yet his forms are not portraits. They do not communicate narratives, nor are they tethered by the suggestion of a time period.

Neri alters his surfaces with gouges, scrapes and bulges juxtaposed with satiny smooth passages, oftentimes with sweeps of pigment that can vary from bold, primary hues to soft yellow washes over flat white.

As this creative process unfolds, Neri–the unmistakable Modernist–becomes more and more discernible in the work. It is as though he draws an imaginary circle around the sculpture and himself, shifting from figurative representation to a highly personal dialog between artist and sculptural object.

While Manuel Neri has always worked in interconnected series, one of the most captivating aspects of his practice has been his treatment of each creative endeavor as a distinctive, singular work.

His preparatory drawings are often exquisite. Although they have served as paths for solving spatial or compositional problems, the sculptures stemming from them have tended to evolve into entirely different forms, colors, and attitudes.

About the artist

Manuel Neri is a lifelong California resident. The 87-year-old artist has worked for four decades in a sun-filled former church in Benicia that he adapted as his studio. He taught at the University of California, Davis, for 34 years. Although Neri was associated with the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the 1960s, his life’s work has merited his recognition as a significant international sculptor.


Manuel Neri: The Modernist Figure is the product of collaboration between a number of institutions and individuals. Works have been placed on loan by Iowa State University Museums, Ames; Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln; Yares Art, New York; Hackett/Mill, San Francisco; The Manuel Neri Trust, San Francisco; Kathryn and Marc LeBaron, Lincoln; Ree and Jun Kaneko,Omaha; Eva and George Neubert, Brownville; exhibition patrons Karen and Robert Duncan, Lincoln, and CCAM. The museum’s project partner, Iowa State University Museums, will host an exhibition of overlapping works, Manuel Neri: Ambiguity, Mystery and Allure, from Jan. 18 through May 18, 2018.

To arrange a docent-led tour, please contact: Trish Okamoto, Director 712-435-0007 / 712-850-1175 /
Makiko I, 1983 Plaster & Mixed Media 16.75 x 13 x 10 in 42.5 x 33 x 25.4 cm
Japanese Dancer Series No. 13 (Makiko), 1985 Mixed media on paper 41.75 x 29.75 in 106 x 75.6 cm
Bull Jumper (Cast 1/4), 1989 Cast 1990 Bronze with oil-based pigments 19.5 x 50 x 30 in 49.5 x 127 x 76.2 cm Karen and Robert Duncan Collection
Rosa Negra No. 1 (Cast 3/4), 1982 Cast 1983 Bronze with oil-based pigments 67.5 x 34.25 x 17 in 171.5 x 87 x 43.2 cm Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Olga N. Sheldon Acquisition Trust, U-3710.1985
Prietas Series IV (Cast 4/4), 1983; Painted 1998 Bronze with oil-based pigments 69 x 23 x 4 in 175.3 x 58.4 x 35.6 cm Kathryn and Marc LeBaron Lincoln, NE
Untitled Relief Study II (Mexico), 1993 Mixed media on paper 17 x 14 in 43.2 x 35.6 cm
Mujer Pegada Series No. 1 (Cast 3/4), 2006 Bronze with oil-based pigments 71.75 x 56 x 12.5 in 182.2 x 142.2 x 31.8 cm University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames Gift of Frank and Jinx Lobdell
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