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Les Perhacs

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Biography

Les Perhacs was born in 1940 in a vastly different Los Angeles.  He explored the beaches and mountains from north to south into Baja California developing an affinity for animals of all kinds, particularly birds and sea life.  He credits his Hungarian father, an engineer and inventor for early training in quality craftsmanship – in true European tradition he introduced his only son to the variety of machine crafts which were his forte when Perhacs was only six years old. His love of nature is rooted in the time spent watching birds, collecting skulls, and skin-diving, often times with his uncle, taking trips following insects or animals for as long as necessary to satisfy their curiosities.  

At age 16, Perhacs won a scholarship to Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles where he studied while still attending North Hollywood High.  After graduation, he spent a year at Art Center School of Design before going to Pratt Institute in New York.  It was there he studied under Willem & Elaine deKooning, Buckminster Fuller, and Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith.  His love of the open spaces of Southern California led him back to the University of Southern California where he studied Industrial Design and Architecture.  While at USC in 1962, he won the National Alcoa Aluminum Student Design Award for his ‘tractor for the sea’, a battery powered diving saucer for divers and mariculture – inspired by his many hours of skin-diving with a design influence from the Mexican guitarfish. 

After college, Perhacs went to work as a model maker and inventor for the Toy Development Center in Los Angeles.  He designed toys and games for Hasbro, Cragstan, Playskool, Mattel, Milton Bradley, A.C. Gilbert, and others as well as studio props for Universal Studios, Star Trek, and Man from UNCLE.  Along with his job as an Industrial Designer and Inventor, Perhacs continued with his sculpture, exhibiting at several galleries in Southern California.  He obtained a Scientific Collector’s Permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior authorizing him to collect protected birds and marine and freshwater vertebrates for the purpose of teaching Bionics at UCLA School of Industrial Design to further the study of nature’s functional forms and how they might be adapted as a basis for understanding form follows function.

While Perhacs enjoyed these pursuits, his longing to become more involved with nature again, and to be able to observe wildlife and do more sculpture, led him to leave Los Angeles for the woods of the Pacific Northwest.  In 1968, he purchased twelve acres on Washington’s Puget Sound where he built a three-story A-frame house, studio, shop and bronze foundry – all in the middle of a conifer forest.  Over the next twenty years, he returned to the nature he loved and turned to sculpture in earnest.

In 1988, Perhacs decided to return to his native Southern California and built a 1,500 square foot studio with bronze foundry where he continues his work today in stone, steel and bronze.  In 2002, he embarked on a new series of work he calls ‘Chaos’, interpreting Nature through geometry.  Using basic geometric shapes, Perhacs ‘cuts them apart’ to create motion.  Through 2012 he has created more than 30 pieces in the series in fabricated bronze, steel, stone, and varying combinations.  He sees no difference in his abstract work from his realism – the goal is always to take the viewer ‘beyond the surface’.

Over the past 40 years, Perhacs’ works have been shown and collected internationally.  He is in the permanent collections of the State Capitol Museum in Olympia, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, and the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham.  In 2000, Perhacs earned ‘Master Artist’ honors from the Artists of America.  Public placements include the San Diego International Airport and Voorburg in The Netherlands. 

Selected Press

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Western Art & Architecture - The Wild Enigma

November 1, 2016