John Zurier received a Bachelor of Arts in 1979 and a Master of Fine Arts in 1984 from the University of California, Berkeley. With a strong interest in Japanese aesthetics, the traditional principles of simplicity, suggestion, incompleteness, and impoverishment became foundations for his work. “One of my favorite Japanese terms is jinen or ‘naturaliness,’” Zurier has said. “It means things as they really are, or from the beginning to be made so without any calculation, as in water runs downwards and fire goes upwards. It’s not intellectual and can’t be conceptualized.”
In 2002, Zurier traveled to Iceland for the first time and has visited there regularly during the summer months since 2011. Zurier speaks of the Icelandic landscape and culture as influences on his art. The country’s light, fog, sky, and ice are suggested in his abstract paintings through a precise mixture of pigments. During his visits to Iceland, Zurier was also exposed to the country’s poetry, and he has created and titled art based on his reading. In 2011, Zurier collaborated with poet Bill Berkson on the book Repeat After Me, creating watercolors on Japanese notebook paper to complement poems by Berkson.
Zurier has exhibited in the United States and Europe, and his work is in permanent collections including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Microsoft Corporation Art Collection, Redmond, Washington; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. He participated in the 30th São Paulo Biennial (2012), the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach (2010), the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2008), and the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2002). Zurier was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010.