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MENDEZ--Louis, 1929-2012. The exuberant artist/educator, Louis Mendez, died peacefully at the Jacob Perlow Hospice Inpatient Unit at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, just two weeks shy of his 83rd birthday. Louis Ernest Mendez was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan of Puerto Rican, Spanish and Irish heritage. He spent his early years in Spanish Harlem and his teenage years in Goshen, NY, where his high school teachers recognized his unusual talent in drawing and sculpture. Louis went on to earn BFA ('52) and MFA ('54) degrees from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where he became a protege of Professors Charles Harder and Daniel Rhodes, influential figures in the mid-century American studio ceramics movement. After college, Louis was hired by fellow Alfred alumnus, David Gil, as the first designer at Bennington Potters in Vermont. He later worked as a designer at Lenox China in Trenton, NJ, before entering the field of education, teaching first at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then at the Philadelphia College of Art, and ultimately at the Ohio State University in Columbus, where he was an Associate Professor of Art and Chairman of the Graduate Faculty in the Ceramics Department. Aside from these professorial appointments, he taught more casually, but with no less enthusiasm, at numerous venues, including New Jersey City University and the Ceramic Education Center (NJ), Brookfield Craft Center (CT), Art+Clay (NM), Valle de Bravo (MX), Juniata College, (PA), and with special joy at the 92nd Street Y 60+ Program in New York City. From the 1960s onward his output included no only pottery, but masks, wall-reliefs, mosaics, and free-standing sculptures both large and small. Louis developed his signature "Spanish Handbuilding Technique," an approach to ceramic hand building that allowed construction and firing of large sculptural works in clay without the use of an armature, a development that helped to transform ceramics from "craft" to "art." Mendez exhibited in many important venues in the USA, including the Museum of Art and Design, the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, Taller Boriqua, the Brooklyn Museum, the Everson Museum, the Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, and the Silvermine Guild of Artists. International exhibitions include group shows at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Internazionale Biennale dell' Arte Contemporanea (Florence, Italy), the Gangjin Festival (Korea), and a one person show at the Museo Regional Michoacano (Morelia, Mexico). His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Art and Design (New York), the ASU Museum at the Herberger Institute for Design + the Arts in Tempe (AZ), the Mint Museum of Craft & Design (North Carolina), the Columbia Museum of Art (SC), the Gangjin Ceramics Museum (South Korea), and the Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art at Alfred University, among others. Louis is survived by his wife Dianne, son Aaron, daughter-in-law Mieko and two grandchildren; his sister Victoria Blanco-Alfiero; his sister and brother-in-law, Donna and David Dunning; three nephews and one niece. In lieu of flowers, the family asks friends to consider a donation to one of the following: Alfred University; send gift with a note stating that the gift is in memory of Louis Mendez to: University Relations, 1 Saxon Drive, Alfred University, Alfred NY 14802. The 92nd Street Y; make check payable to 92nd Street Y with a note indicating that the gift is "In Memory of Louis Mendez for HB Senior Program." MJHS Foundation; note that the gift is f/b/o the Jacob Perlow Hospice Inpatient Care Unit at Beth Israel Hospital in Memory of Louis Mendez.

Published in The New York Times on Aug. 5, 2012
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