FELIX RUVOLO (1912- 1992)
Felix Ruvolo created something of a sensation when he was hired onto the University of California at Berkeley faculty in 1950. As professor Karl Kasten remarked with a smile, “the ground shook.” As another colleague later said, “there was no doubt that Felix Ruvolo’s reputation had gone before him.” Ruvolo was highly regarded both in Chicago, where he worked with a group of fantasy surrealists that included, among others, Gertrude Abercrombie (1908-1977) and in New York, where he was part of important early abstract expressionist exhibitions. Through these interactions, Ruvolo became friends with several of the first generation of abstract expressionists, including Mark Rothko.
Ruvolo was born in New York in 1912. He was raised in Sicily by his grandparents for several years until he moved to Chicago with his parents at the age of 12. Felix attended the Art Institute of Chicago and taught there from 1945 to 1948. Early career breakthroughs occurred when he was included in two groundbreaking NY MOMA exhibitions: the 1947 Abstraction and Surrealism and the 1951 Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America. Additional invitations flowed from the Whitney Museum of Art, the Walker Art Centre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Phillips Collection of Art, and numerous others.
This resulted in significant recognition in the marketplace and a solo exhibition at the Grand Central Moderns Gallery (NYC) in 1949, and a few years later, an invitation to the Poindexter Gallery (NYC) that also represented Richard Diebenkorn, James Weeks, Emerson Woelffer, and other prominent artists.
Felix and his wife, Mardin, moved west in 1948 after accepting an invitation to teach at Mills College. The following year he accepted an appointment as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. It was in Berkeley where Felix began his large-scale abstract expressionist paintings with heavy impasto. He also became one of the favorite teachers in the department with students that included Walter de Maria, Mark di Suvero, and William Brown, Paul Wonner, and Ray Saunders, among others.
The Ruvolos first moved to the rural town of Walnut Creek that in the years ahead gave way to sprawl. After the birth of their son Antonio, they found an old Victorian in Berkeley below Shattuck Avenue that was a reasonable walk to Spreckels Hall and the art department. Eventually, they moved again to the hills above Berkeley that offered spectacular San Francisco Bay views. On the morning of October 20, 1991, a strong wind developed and merged with a catastrophic fire that burned a large swath of the hills. The Ruvolo family was fortunate to escape alive at the last moment. Still, they did lose the majority of the canvases from the breadth of his career, as well as a world-class anthropology collection belonging to his son Antonio. Just as the artist was beginning to resume work, Felix succumbed to cancer the following year, in 1992.
The Chicago Art Institute, IL
The Krannert Museum, IL
The Auckland City Museum, New Zealand
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Select Group & Solo Exhibitions
1939-1947 Corcoran Gallery Biennials
1947 Art Institute of Chicago, Solo
1948 M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, Solo
1949 Grand Central Moderns, New York
1949 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1950-1954 Viviano Gallery, New York
1951 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1958-1960 Poindexter Gallery, New York, 1958-1960
Other exhibition venues include: California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; San Francisco Museum of Art; Richmond Art Center, California; University of Illinois; Denver Art Museum; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum; Metropolitan Museum; Albright Knox Gallery, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, 1942, 1946, 1947; Bremer Award, 1942; Gerstler Award, 1945, San Francisco Museum of Art; Kearney Prize, Milwaukee Art Institute, 1946; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Richmond Art Center. Ruvolo received 28 awards between 1942 and 1957.
2009 Kasten, Karl. Foghorns and Peacocks: A Memoir
2002 Newby, Rick and Pappas, Andrea. The Most Difficult Journey, The Poindexter
Collections of American Modernist Painting. University of Washington Press.
2002 Hughes, Edan Milton. Artists in California: 1786-1940
1999 Falk, Peter Hastings (Editor). Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975
1992 Calisphere, UC Berkeley. Felix Ruvolo Obituary
1989 Hughes, Edan Milton. Artists in California, 1786-1940
1985 Falk, Peter Hastings (Editor). Who Was Who in American Art: Artists Active Between 1898-1947
1985 Albright, Thomas. Art in the San Francisco Bay Area 1945-1980 / An Illustrated History
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