The Old Print Shop

Peter Gourfain

1934 - 2022

Peter Gourfain, a Chicago native, studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago earning his BFA in 1956. He is known for his printmaking, along with his terracotta and bronze sculptures and his carvings into repurposed wooden objects.

He moved to New York City in the early 1960s and had work exhibited in shows at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC (Systemic Painting); the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (biennial); and, the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, (biennial). Peter changed his approach to creating during the 1970s incorporating more figurative and politically explicit subjects. He chose to avoid the commercial trajectory of the art world. Instead, he taught ceramics in a local pottery studio, made art for public spaces, and produced a prolific quantity of work fueled by the energy and compassion with which he interacted with the world around him. During the 1980s he was a recreation director for the Division of Senior Citizens of the City of New York, teaching painting and ceramics to senior citizens.

In his role as a fiercely independent social commentator, Gourfain fought for national and international issues. These activities are directly reflected in his artwork, which highlights themes such as the victims of racial injustice and police brutality, appreciation for the working class, disdain for capitalism and corporate culture, and the destruction of the environment. These references are interspersed with keen observations of the everyday urban environment that he inhabited, references to literary classics, particularly James Joyce, and letters from an alphabet of his own invention. Above all, however, he retained a pervasive curiosity and care for his fellow human beings. – excerpts, Chazen Museum, Univ. of WI.