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The Arts
12.09.09

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Phaedra

To the Fourth Dimension

Sculptor Peter Forakis, 1927–2009

By Gretchen Giles


Among the many pleasures of life in the North Bay is running into famous artists at the grocery store or the post office. They live here but show elsewhere, in such far-off metropolises as are sometimes called New York.

Sculptor Peter Forakis, who died on Thanksgiving Day at age 82, was among the most influential sculptors quietly inhabiting the North Bay. Born in Montana to Greek immigrants, Forakis did his duty in Korea and then attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the SF Art Institute) before decamping for the East Coast. There he was a cofounder of the avant Park Place Gallery; in San Francisco, he helped to found Six Gallery. His gift was to understand how to make math visible and how to make geometry sing, even through the silent bulk of steel.

Reviewing Forakis' work in the San Francisco Chronicle, critic Kenneth Baker hailed him as "the originator of geometry-based sculpture." As interested in absence as in presence, Forakis pioneered a method of cutting away steel forms rather than adding to them, allowing gravity and the material's sheer weight to balance his massive objects delicately.

As a master must, he influenced many younger artists, and was embraced by the pillars of our local arts community, including Voight Family Sculpture Foundation curator Debra Lehane, who helped to place two of Forakis' works with the Foundation in Healdsburg and Petaluma. Another of his large civic sculptures is readily seen at Santa Rosa's Juilliard Park. Forakis is pictured above in the garden of Forestville's Quicksilver Mine Co., sharing a laugh with sculptor Genevieve Barnhart. His memorial was held Dec. 4 and a public celebration is planned for March. His mortal coil may be sloughed, but his legacy is as vital and enduring as metal.


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