Born in 1933 in Chicago, Illinois, Jerry Sheerin is a registered architect in California who received a B.Architecture from the University of Illinois, (1951-1960) after serving in Japan during the Korean War, when he met Kenzo Tange and later worked with him in 1965. In 1969 he abandoned architecture to live in Madrid, Spain as a protest to the Vietnam War, in 1965, having designed the master plan for the Cam Ranh Bay Airbase there. In 1954 he studied watercolor with Edward Betts, Louise Woodruff and briefly with Richard Diebenkorn at the University of Illinois, and later with Guenichiro Inokuma in Tokyo. In Madrid he was influenced by Manolo Mompo and Jose Guerrero.
His work is colorful, lyrical, abstract and spomtanesouly created without preconception which follows the brush, totally opposite of his architectural proposals.. Since 1979 he has once again returned to creating utopian architectural proposals which he has no desire to build.
SPAIN? WHY SPAIN?
I was born in Chicago on the 24th of May in 1933, son of a self taught artist and designer who died in 1947, and descendent of Irish, English, Danish, French German Norwegian ancestors. My family name, Sheerin, curiously enough is related to Milieus, King of Spain, 16th Century b. C, and father of the Irish Race!.
In 1945 I studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and 1950 I enrolled in the Elgin Academy in Elgin. Illinois, and took a class in mechanical drawing and designed the school yearbook cover, my first success that later encouraged me to enter into the School of Architecture of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in 1951.
From 1952 to 1954, I was economically obliged to stop my studies and work as a topographic draftsman in Waukegan, and was drafted into the U.S. Army Engineers during the Korean War, and sent to serve in the 64th Engineering Battalion in Tokyo as a geodesic computer specialist where I met the famous Japanese architect Kenzo Tange after visiting his recently designed Peace Memorial and Museum in Hiroshima establishing a life long friendship with him as well as the architect Junzo Yoshimura and also studied with the painter Guenichiro Inokuma. Their teachings and examples have guided me ever since.
Returning to the university I worked and studied until graduating in 1960. I worked in Monterey, California until volunteered for the newly formed the Peace Corp to go to Nepal as an architect, but left for being too political. In1965-66 I joined Tange´s team in the University of Tokyo to participate in the design of the earthquake destroyed city centre of Skopje, Yugoslavia and the Fukushima Master Plan, an experience that has formed my way of seeing both architecture and the world.
During this same period I worked for three months in Saigon to design the 50 million dollar Master Plan for the U.S. logistics air base in Cam Ranh Bay, before returning to Tange´s studio at the beginning of the Viet Nam war, before returning to Tange´s studio to participate in the design of Fukushima Resort Master Plan.
In 1966-67 I taught urban design in the University of California in Berkeley during the student free speech protests, lived in San Francisco during the hippy period, and in 1967-69 was Director of Urban Design for the Redevelopment Agency of Oakland designing the City Centre reconstruction Master Plan.
With the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Viet Nam Protest Movement, and the Black Protest Movements, I designed a monument to King for Oakland Bay, abandoned architecture to go to Europe and paint, as all my efforts to date as an architect had been totally useless. In Paris I met my life long companion, and came to Madrid where she lives and returned to painting, living and working in madrid since 1969.
During the 70´s I visited the nearby Prado Museum almost every day, it was my first contact with the classical art. I rejected the New York School for although enjoyed the work, I did not want to follow their lead, and wanted to find my own way. To a large degree I was influenced by Joan Miró, whom I later knew, Paul Klee and his Spanish counterpart, my good friend Manolo Mompó, literally, I purposely started from scratch, with my paintings following lines, one, a lyrical abstract expressionism, somewhat oriental in feeling, and the other a highly abstract and colourful expressionism, somewhat influenced by another good friend, the Spanish-American artist, José Guerrero, whom I first met while hitchhiking to a small town to in southern Spain, he was to have lunch with the family of Federico Garcia Lorca in Frigliana, a strange coincidence! His painting was highly influenced by his own friends in the New York School! My only rules were not to use black and not to have a preconceived notion of what to do, but only to follow the brush and let it select the colour, all rather spontaneous, like the TAO.
In 1979, I designed my first architectural proposal in ten years for the Islamic Cultural Centre that was to be built in Madrid, just one kilometre from my studio, as Kenzo Tange was prime jury member. I did not win, but in 2007 I was told by Tange´s, associate, Omar Take, that Tange preferred my design, but the other members of the jury found it too modern! Strangely enough, the competition coordinators son was named the project architect for the winning Polish team!
My next effort in 1995 was for the design of the Prado Museum Expansion and Urban Reform. In 1996 the jury declared no winner and held another limited competition with new bases exactly like my solution, with the exception of including a cube to be placed around the XVII century Claustro. In 1997 a Spanish architect was declared winner. What the Spanish Government refuses to admit is that the final expansion will be based on my copyrighted proposal of 1996!
Information courtesy of the artist