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Kenneth Vavrek

Craftsperson · Painter · Sculptor
Born 1939, Cleveland, Ohio

I strive to have my work convey a vibrant and intriguing experience, which, although abstract, seems real to the viewer. Empty spaces contribute to the spatial mysteries as much as the positive forms.”

Born in 1939, Kenneth Vavrek was 31 years old when he became an art professor at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, a post he maintained for over three decades. His art took a new direction in 1975 when he visited the Arches National Park in Moab, Utah and several other desert sites in the vicinity. Vavrek was captivated by the natural beauty he discovered on his trip. For the next two decades, he dedicated himself to creating trays, vessels and wall sculptures inspired by the landscape of the southwestern United States. These works are characterized by varying degrees of abstraction, but all belong to Vavrek’s self-titled “Desert Period”, which lasted until the mid-1990s.

In 1995, Vavrek became less preoccupied with his underlying subject matter and more attentive to the form and space relationships inherent to his sculptural pieces. He made increasing use of negative space and experimented with the different interactions possible between the foreground, middle ground, and background of a sculpture. Vavrek also placed new emphasis on the glazing process as a way of enhancing or lessening the effect of a particular sculptural form.

Although Vavrek’s primary medium is clay, he does occasionally deviate from this norm. In the late 1990s, Vavrek created a sculpture with an aluminum framework mounted atop a paper compound. Such a divergence was motivated by the artist’s belief that some of his sculptural ideas were, both literally and figuratively, too twisted to be accommodated by clay. Vavrek found aluminum to be a more obliging material for his more “torqued” creations.

By the 2000s, Vavrek had once again reverted to clay and was invited in 2007 to produce clay art work for the FuLe International Ceramic Art Museums site in Fuping, Shaanxi, China, along with six other American artists. Vavrek fashioned an inaugural piece called Dynamic Character for the opening of The Americas Museum at FLICAM.

Vavrek has exhibited extensively in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. He has received commissions from companies such as the Korman Commerical Properties and ARA Services and his art is featured in the permanent collection of several museums and art centers, including the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition, Vavrek is a co-founder of The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization devoted to promotion of the ceramic arts through artist residencies, studio space, and educational outreach programs.

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