The artist and graphic artist Joseph Zirker dies at the age of 97

The renowned artist and graphic artist Joseph Zirker passed away on June 25, two months before his 98th birthday. Earlier this year there was an exhibition of his work at Café Zoë near his studio in the Willows section of Menlo Park. Some of his artworks remain on display.

Joseph Zirker was born on August 13, 1924 to Clarence Harold Zirker and Lillian Rappaport Zirker in Los Angeles, California. Zirker was a well-known and respected innovator and multimedia artist who worked as a printmaker, papermaker, painter, sculptor, teacher, and poet, inspiring thousands of students, collectors, and fellow artists for more than 70 years.

He invented a unique process for creating monotypes that is documented in his two books: The cast acrylic print and Translucent Transformations. He also developed collaged sculptures made of wood, foam core and cardboard. Using copies of his handwritten words and other common materials, he created table-sized sculptures. Examples of his work can be seen on his website.

Joseph Zirker is listed in Who’s Who of American Art, was a member of the National Academy of Design, and received two Pollock Krasner Awards. He received his MFA from the University of Southern California, where he later taught printmaking. He taught at San Jose City College and taught at Stanford University and Portland State University. His workshops have been held at Drake University, Rice University, Cooper Union School of the Arts and at several art academies in Belgium and the Netherlands.

He is represented in numerous public collections, including Smithsonian Institute, Stanford University Museum of Art, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts; Brooklyn Museum; the Anderson Collection, Centrum Frans Masereel, Belgium; De Saisset Art Gallery and Museum, University of Santa Clara; Art Museums of San Francisco; Free Library of Philadelphia; Grunwald Collection, UCLA; National Academy of Design, New York; National Art Gallery, Washington, DC; Oakland Museum of California; and the Portland Art Museum.

In the 1970s, Zirker and his beloved late wife, Eva, built a studio in Menlo Park that was featured in Sunset Magazine for its unique and beautiful design.

Joseph believed that “art is the garden of social justice and that includes all media in its expression”. He constantly invented new methods of creating art and often used his art to reflect on political and world events, always in the interest of poor and working people. He worked in his studio until three weeks before his death and most recently created new pictures from tire treads.

Joseph’s wife Eva, in his 50s, died in 2015. He is survived by 4 children, Karen Jo Koonan of San Francisco, Daniel Zirker of Hamilton, New Zealand, Lisa Moses of Chang Rai, Thailand, and Nila Zirker of Terrell, Texas. He is also survived by three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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