Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boooo, My Little Pretties!!!!! Happy Halloween!

This eve when spirits appear and visit us 'normal' folks, with their empty bags begging for tasty treats, one can approach this hallowed night with merriment and anticipation as millions of  children dress up in some of the most ghoulish outfits their parents can afford. Honestly, what a kid can do with a simple white bed sheet and some red food coloring can scare the living crap out of you. 
Ahh, but we printmakers are a hearty bunch, and  have done our fair share of dressing up and hosting a party or two with our inky friends. Our artistic activities can be quite inventive, too and I want to commend the activities of Carlos Barberena, (whose lovely Ghoulish Geisha girl is pictured below)
of La Calaca Press who has twice now ambitiously organized an international group of artists to commemorate this special day through All Saints day in November. 

The Calaca Press International Print Exchange has realized hundreds of artists from around the globe to participate in its the Day of the Dead theme. I am going to provide you a sampling of this years' artists, and I encourage you to view their site for more images at http://calacapressinternationalprintexchange.blogspot.com.  

Versions of the project are currently touring in the US, Mexico and Central America.
Sala Berenice Starr, Biblioteca los Mangos - November 2012 -
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, México
Benedictine University. - October-November 2012 -
5700 College Rd. Lisle, IL 60532. USA. tparker@ben.edu
Atelier International - Art Gallery. - October 2012  -
 505 S. Water Street, Corpus Christi, TX 78401. USA. www.aiartgallery.com
Centro Cultural Antiguo Colegio Jesuita, October 2012
Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico.
Museo Antiguo Convento de San Francisco. - November 2012 -
Granada, Nicaragua. 
BOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Peterson Kamwathi: The Kenyan Print Crusader


Peterson Kamwathi, born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1980,  now resides in Kiambu. Kamwathi attributes his mother as having instilled his first interest in art after she gave him  a watercolor set. He graduated from the Shang Tao media Arts College in 2005 and has gone on to work as an internationally recognized artist and teacher. 


Arguably considered one of Kenya’s rising young art stars, Kamwathi is quickly establishing himself as a major artist in Africa. The 30-year-old artist talks with the wisdom of a man twice his age. His work combines clear conceptual elements with a rich resource from his country’s cultural, social and political history. A story-teller in keeping with the traditions of his culture, he is also a recorder, questioner and messenger of truth. His motivation flows from a sense of duty to one’s society and humanity of the world. He talks about the physical and spiritual ‘seeking Bruce’ Onabrakpeya, (who is one of Kenya’s most experimental and prolific artists) to always look to redefine oneself and seek the truth of one’s convictions.

Today, Kamwathi works primarily in printmaking, but he has also explored metal, glass and mixed media drawings. Kamwathi writes,  “I have a deep interest in printmaking because of its indirectness and to an extent its perceived rigidity in technique and expression; I am also attracted to the medium’s history in religious, social and political advocacy.”

A good portion of Kamwathi’s social/political work has been concerned with the iconography and process of Kenya’s 2005 first constitutional referendum. His powerful works have also been a response to national and global socioeconomic and political topics like the debacle of the 2007 Kenyan General Elections that nearly brought the country to a civil war.
His symbols are easy to comprehend, non-threatening and authoritative. His iconography comprises the following: indigenous donkeys or cattle with a hump (bull) which in Kenya signifies traditional or family wealth; the ballot box which signifies democracy by rule of law: the queue which signifies “limited resources” and, the clove which in east Africa signifies Zanzibar’s spices and slaves trade.

Kamwathi's covered the entire surface of his Voters’ Queue prints (like the one above) with densely packed, small ballot boxes superimposed upon figures standing in a voters’ line. The figures are stalemated by the ballot boxes, nonetheless, they metaphorically stand for the electorate. They symbolize the voters’ perseverance in the face of election fraud and corruption of the electoral process.

Insisting that his art does not advocate political protest, Kamwathi states, “…My  art is my perception  about what  happens in my environment as a Kenyan,  as a Nairobean,  as someone who is affected by all that is happening. I am referencing social issues”.

Kamwathi enjoys the collaborative nature of printmaking and his ongoing experience with the collective printmaking studios of Nairobi has inspired him to teach printmaking to the next generation of Kenyan artists. He understands the importance of encouraging younger artists to tell their own stories about culture and political/social concerns. We can be glad that these artists have earned their right to speak freely about the conditions they face, and that Kenyan artists are being recognized for their artistic contributions to the world.

Kamwathi's Selected Honors and Exhibitions
2009      The Goethe Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
              World Museum, Liverpool, UK
2005     Tuska Center for Contemporary Art, University of Kentucky, USA
                And group exhibitions in the United States, England, Holland, Senegal, South Africa

Residencies
2009       Art Omi International Artists Residency, Columbia, New York
               Reijkademy Residency, Amsterdam
2006       Printmaking residency, Bath Spa University, Bath, UK
                London print studio, London, UK
                Thupelo international artist’s workshop, Rorkes Drift, South Africa
2005       University of Kentucky Kenya artists in residence program, Lexington, Kentucky. USA


Monday, October 22, 2012

Julian Stanczak Prints: Op-ing the Ol' Orbs

Op artist Julian Stanczak, was born in eastern Poland, (Borownica), in  1928. He is recognized as a Polish-American painter/printmaker, and currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.   As for his education, it came after a long period of travel during and after WWII. Stanczak migrated from a Siberian labor camp, where he lost the use of his right arm, and had to re-train himself to paint with his left hand. He spent some time with the Polish army-in-exile in Persia and then migrated to Africa where he lived in Uganda. Later on, he moved to London and  eventually came to the United States in 1950 where he started his artistic studies. Stanczak received his B.F.A. degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1954, and then went to Yale University to study with Josef Albers, where he received his M.F.A. degree  in 1956. 
In addition to being an artist, Stanczak taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati  1957–64, and he taught Painting for thirty years at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1964-1995. He once said… " In the search for Art, you have to separate what is emotional and what is logical. I did not want to be bombarded daily by the past,- I looked for anonymity of actions through non-referential, abstract art."
How many of us can be recognized as having an art movement named after our work? Stanczak’s first major solo show in New York was held at the Martha Jackson Gallery(1964) and was aptly called Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings. It was the phrase that named the Op Art movement. He was included in MOMA’s The Responsive Eye exhibition, and later went on to make the surface of his paintings seem to vibrate through wavy lines and complementing color palettes. Stanczak used repeating forms to create an art of his experience; useding varying transparent color ranges with a formal geometric grid. From his explorations he continued to expand the dialog already begun with Josef Albers, Richard Anuskiewicz and Illinois Op artist Hal Rogoff
By 1966 Bridget Riley, Stanczak, Rogoff and Anuszkiewicz, were all creating color op art though Stanczak's compositions were the most complex of all of the color practitioners. Taking his cue from Albers' book Interaction of Color,  Stanczak created various spatial experiences with color and geometry. Color has no simple systematized equivalent, but it can derive from the electromagnetic scale in multi-dimensions  that correspond to the magnitudes expressed in musical pitch energy. Stanczak arranged patterns upon patterns so one would see them as  them as a series of transparent layered color screens. 
The Origins of Op Art
Walter Gropius’ Bauhaus alternative school of Architecture and Applied Arts, with its disciplined style based on geometric shapes of the cube, the rectangle and the circle  was conceived with the idea of creating a educational community of artists. When the Nazis shut down the school, many of its artists and teachers fled Germany for Hungary and the United States. Victor Vasarely, long considered the the ‘father’ of Op Art, trained at the Budapest school.

The development of 20th c. art to separate itself from representational imagery through de-emphasis of a traditional image or natural spatial concerns as was found in Cubism and Abstract Expressionism propelled the idea of flat, patterned optics and the move toward geometric shapes and Minimalism.  Studies on the mathematical/scientific basis of perception
( how the eye and brain work together to perceive color, light, depth, perspective, size, shape, and motion, and how their functional relationship  - how the  retina  ‘sees’ patterns and the brain  ‘interprets’ them) had been going on since the 1800s, had a resurgence in the 1950s and 1960s. Confusion between these two creates a visual stimuli and an optical ‘vibration’, like how some colors placed next to neutral greys appear to create new colors, or an echo of another color, an after image, etc. 
Op Art can also be seen as having evolved from Kinetic Art .  The use of repetition, pattern and line, often in high contrast or complementary colors, was one way Op Artists used to create this illusion of movement. The overall effect let the viewer see a vibration as the eye tried to separate the color complements. Image-wise, the geometrically-based nature of Op Art is almost always non-representational. However, despite this, Op artists made use of the traditional perspective techniques to allow for an accurate representation of the natural world  in order to create the illusion of depth/space.

Stanczak's contribution to the Op Art movement is significant and has worked from within the bounds of personal tragedy, to lock it firmly in the past and capably create a new illusion of one's perspective/perception. The tragedies of his early years in Siberia and the physical trauma of re-training himself to create with his left arm left its mark, but he did not let it dictate his ability to work, nor did it stop him from making work that is technically and mathematically perfect. His paintings and screenprints strongly align themselves with his peers and we can appreciate his antecedence at a time when younger artists like Paul Kuhn and Eve Leader are exploring the nuances of Neo-Geo abstraction.
Stanczak’s Selected Honors and Permanent Collections:
1966 - "New Talent" by Art in America magazine
1970 - "Outstanding American Educator", Educators of America
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Centrum Sztuki Studio im Stanislawa I. Witkiewicza, Warsaw, Poland
Corcoran Museum of Art Washington, DC
Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Milwaukee Art Museum,  Milwaukee Wisconsin
Museum of Fine Arts,  Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Tamayo Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Robert Rauschenberg: The Pop-NeoDada-Conceptualist Printmaker


Milton Ernest Rauschenberg a.k.a. Robert Rauschenberg was born in the southern oil refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas in 1925.  His parents were Fundamentalist Christians and they believed in instilling a hard-work ethic in their children. Rauschenberg said he never liked school because he suffered terribly from dyslexia. After he managed to get through high school Rauschenberg chose to go into the military, enlisting with the Navy. He was stationed in California, and it was during a visit to the Huntington estate in Pasadena that he was first exposed to fine art. He decided to study art after finishing his military service and went to the Kansas City Art Institute. Then he went to France for a brief study at the Académie Julian in Paris. and after returning to the United States in 1948 Rauschenberg went to study at the famed Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

Josef Albers was one of his instructors at BMC, and Rauschenberg often credited Albers as inspiring him to move toward experimentation [the opposite of what Albers taught], which lead to his now infamous combine painting/sculptures. Rauschenberg later studied with Vaclav Vytlacil and Morris Kantor at the Art Students League of New York, from 1949-1952.  He briefly married artist Susan Weil in 1950 and they had a son, Christopher. After his divorce he was known to be involved with fellow artists Cy Twombly, Jasper Johns and Darryl Pottorf, but he mostly kept his private life out of the public’s eye.
In 1966, Rauschenberg, along with Billy Klüver, established a non-profit organization called Experiments in Art and Technology  (E.A.T.) to promote collaborations between artists and engineers. He continued that idea and expanded upon it in 1984, when the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) was announced at the United Nations. This seven-year project was designed to encourage "world peace and understanding" as he went on a ten-country tour of Chile, China, Cuba, Germany, Japan, Malaysia,  Mexico, the Soviet Union, Tibet, and Venezuela; leaving behind a piece of artwork about the culture he observed.  The ROCI venture, supported by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was exhibited in 1991.


In 1990, Rauschenberg created the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RFF) to promote awareness of the causes he cared about, such as world peace, the environment and humanitarian issues. In 2011, the foundation launched its “Artist as Activist” print project which will invitean artist to come to work at the late artist’s estate on Captiva Island in Florida to create an editioned work on a subject of his/her choice. The foundation also maintains the 19th Street Project Space in New York. Additionally, Rauschenberg set up one-time only grants via Change, Inc., to assist financially-challenged visual artists.
Artistically, Rauschenberg questioned the difference between art and everyday objects, much in the same vein that Marcel Duchamp’s "Fountain" revisited art’s meaning in the eye of the observer. In in Rauschenberg created an international incident in 1953 when he asked Abstract Expressionism’s leader, Willem DeKooning,  to participate in an ‘art experiment’ where he ‘erased’ a multimedia drawing by de Kooning. The result initially sent shock waves throughout the art world for defacing a work of art by a modern master, but  the concept held ground and he was seen as a pioneer of Neo-Dada.
"Combines" mainly refers to Rauschenberg's work begun from 1954 to 1962. Critics first saw these as difficult to interpret due to his densely-laden imagery with no apparent order to their presentation. By 1962, Rauschenberg regularly utilized appropriated images from mainstream newspapers and magazines. He transferred photographs to canvas via the silkscreen process and this touched off a firestorm of interest in printmaking. Rauschenberg liked the multiplicity of creating images, and continued to embrace this flattened over-layered image for the rest of his career, but he challenged the parameters of the medium like everything else he touched. This work propelled him to become seen as one of the pivotal artists of the Pop Art movement and put him on a par with Andy Warhol.

As for his prints, one of the first series he attempted was the 16.5-meter-long silkscreen print called  Currents (1970), and his Surfaces project (which soon followed). They both consisted of large-scale screened prints with newspaper headlines and textures, creating the illusion of looking at a television screen with bad reception. The air wave patterns he created while layering his images cover over and obscure the messages of the clippings. His subtle yet hit-you-over-the-head commentary about the effects of bombarding our ever-acquiring society with information couldn’t have been better timed. It pre-dated the movement of social consciousness and political art which defined work in the 70s. Likewise, Rauschenberg’s obsessive exploration of alternative media and manipulation allowed him a freedom to break with traditional means of making art. His combines and assemblages broke new ground and liberated younger artists to mix media, much in the same manner as Pablo Picasso’s assemblages, or Frank Stella’s combined sculpture/painted/prints of the late 1980s. 
In printmaking, Rauschenberg left no inked method untouched. He printed with anything available; including a rubber car tire and etched sheets of glass and backlit them within a frame. One of his multi-media prints stretches a staggering ¼ mile in length. His prints’ subjects spanned all the current events of the mid-20thc, and they brought a new voice to the collage method introduced by Picasso fifty years prior. One of his last technological innovations was making large-scale digital Iris prints and using biodegradable vegetable dyes in his transfer processes, which advanced the medium toward the bio-friendly movement in the 1990s.
Robert Rauschenberg was a dominant force behind the Pop Art movement of the 1960s, and he continued to challenge himself artistically up until his death. As a printmaker, Rauschenberg was a leader in the social/political circles. His comments were not only pointed, but they were diplomatic and ‘inclusive’. Some saw the work as a mere reflection of ‘current’ events, but looking back on those Currents and Surfaces series now, one can see his vision was a clear and pointed criticism of the mass media frenzy which surrounded people and events of the day. He was unafraid of people’s responses to the work, and said what he wanted to say. You see, he felt he had nothing to lose. He came from no art experience, from a nothing town to become a pinnacle voice of the 20th c. art world. He felt his background permitted him a fresh look at the world, and left him untainted by his ignorance. The viewer was called to give an opinion of what they saw and responded to his word collages at a time which pre-dated Joseph Kosuth’s conceptualist group and their minimal ‘worded’ images of the 1970s. From 2003 Rauschenberg worked at his home and studio on Captiva Island, in Florida. He died there in 2008, from heart failure, but his legacy continues a support for younger artists, artists in need and intercultural exchange. 



Honors and Awards
1964 the first American artist to win the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale
1983 Grammy Award for Album Design, Talking Heads
1993 National Medal of Arts
Commissions
1965 Life magazine Inferno: theVietnam War, racial violence, neo-Nazism, political assassinations, and ecological disaster. 
1998 Vatican commission commemorate controversial Franciscan priest Pio of Pietrelcina,

Exhibitions
1951 one-man show at Betty Parsons Gallery
1954 one-man show at Charles Egan Gallery
1963 first career retrospective, at the Jewish Museum
1976& 1978 retrospective by Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., traveled throughout the United States
1997-1999 retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Houston, Cologne, and Bilbao.
2005-2007 traveling retrospective to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 
2008 collection of photographs shown at the Guggenheim Museum
2009-2010 Peggy Guggenheim Colleciton, Venice. Tinguely Museum, Basel, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Villa e Collezione Panza, Varese.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Elizabeth Catlett Prints: Serving Notice to the People



Alice Elizabeth Catlett was born in Washington DC in 1915 (or 1919), the youngest of three children. Both of her parents were educators, and she, too, chose a profession that blended education as well as the arts. She studied design, printmaking and drawing at Howard University  and received her B.S. degree in 1935. Working as a high school teacher in North Carolina, Catlett left the position after two years, because low wages available to African-Americans. In 1940 Catlett became the first student to receive an M.F.A. in sculpture at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. While there, she studied with Grant Wood, at whose urging Catlett began to work with the subject of  African-Americans, especially black women.

Catlett moved to Chicago in 1941, studied ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago, and printmaking at the Art Students League of New York in 1942-1943. After graduation she moved to New Orleans to teach at the historically black institution Dillard University, and met and married Charles White. Five years later, after her divorce from White, she left New Orleans for New York to study with the sculptor Ossip Zadkine. He encouraged Catlett to work in a more abstract direction. While in New York, she became the Promotion Director of Harlem’s George Washington Carver School which boasted famed photographer Roy DeCarava as one of their students.
In 1946, Catlett received a fellowship that allowed her to travel to Mexico where she studied at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura, Esmeralda, Mexico. In 1947, she married Mexican artist Francisco Mora, settled there permanently, and later become a Mexican citizen. Eventually she gave up her American citizenship and was declared an ‘undesirable alien’ by the US State Department; a situation which forced her to obtain a special visa to attend the opening of her 1971 solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Catlett worked with a group of printmakers at the Taller de Gráfica Popular, (People's Graphic Arts Workshop) in Mexico City. Artists Leopoldo Méndez, Raul Anguiano, Luis Arenal, and Pablo O'Higgins organized the group in 1937, and focused their art toward creating a social change. The TGP inspired her to reach out to the broadest possible audience, which often meant balancing abstraction with figuration. She and other artists created a series of linoleum cuts on black heroes and "did posters, leaflets, collective booklets, illustrations for textbooks, posters and illustrations for the construction of schools, against illiteracy in Mexico."

Catlett was arrested during a railroad workers’ strike in Mexico City in 1949. Like other artists and activists, she felt the political tensions of the McCarthy years. The TGP was thought to have ties to the Communist Party; and although Catlett never joined the party, her first husband had been a member, so she was closely watched by the United States Embassy.
She continued to teach even after becoming a successful artist, and in 1958 she became the first female Professor of Sculpture and Head of the Sculpture Department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s School of Fine Arts in Mexico City. She retired to Cuernavaca, in 1975. Thereafter, she continued to be active in the Cuernavaca art community.In 1980, Catlett donated a collection of her personal papers, exhibition catalogs, and other documentary materials to the Archives of American Art in the Smithsonian Institution.
She was concerned with the social dimension of her art. “I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.” For example, her Sharecropper print refers to the injustices of an unfair system exerted on the poor and showed her lifelong concern for the oppressed and the dignity of women. She was a ground-breaking personality and her tenacity to seek a career when segregation presented limited opportunities drove her to make art and speak the truth of her own experiences. She was as much beloved in Mexico as the US, and worked up until her death at age 96.

 

Awards and Honors:
50 year retrospective exhibition at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, 1998
Elizabeth Catlett Week in Berkeley, CA
Elizabeth Catlett Day in Cleveland, OH
Honorary citizen of New Orleans, LA
Honorary Doctorate from Pace University, NY
2003 International Sculpture Center’s Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award
Included in Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” , 1976  “Stargazers:Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation w/ 21 Contemporary Artists,” Bronx Museum, NY

Sculpture Commissions:
First prize in sculpture, the American Negro Exposition in Chicago, 1939
Louis Armstrong, Louis Armstrong Park, New Orleans, LA
Howard University,  Washington, D.C.
“Invisible Man” Memorial to Ralph Ellison, in Riverside Park, West Harlem, NY
And several in Mexico and Mississippi

Collections:
Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico
The Museum of Modern Art, NY
Museum of Modern Art, Mexico
National Museum of Prague
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C
Worcester Art Museum, MA
The University of Iowa, IA
Howard University, Washington, DC
Fisk University, NY
Atlanta University, GA
the Barnett-Aden Collection, FL
Schomburg Collection, NY
Museum of New Orleans, LA
The High Museum, GA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mauricio Lasansky 1914-2012, Beloved Patriarch of American Printmaking

Before I embark upon the biography of this amazing man, I want to relate some thoughts. I will confess that I dreaded the day would come when the famed and highly esteemed printmaker/teacher Mauricio Lasansky would leave this world for a better place. I mourned his passing as though my own grandfather had died, because I felt in fact he was my artistic and spiritual ancestor. At least, that's what I came to feel having studied with one of his students, Robert Wolfe, at Miami University(OH). 

Wolfe's stories of having studied at the US printmaking mecca in the 1950s was all about teaching us 'print newbies' the history of this medium and the noble merits of one's blood, sweat and toil on a piece of  metal plate; to create a message that will burn itself into the viewer's memory, or at least tell a story. One of his first year graduate student tales related to one's fear of the initial mark, diving into the abyss not knowing what the image will be but going at it headlong with no restraint. He told us that all first year graduate students had to first do a self-portrait engraving on a full sheet of copper. After they completed that phase of the project,  they were told to completely scrape down the image as though it never existed. Wolfe always brought out examples of that first endeavor for us to admire,  then he carefully taught us how to use the tools to make our own self-portrait engraving. One felt the meticulousness of his[Wolfe's] teaching method was handed down from the Master, and we all aspired to do well with our own project. It was inherently understood that not only our professor, but Lasansky himself was watching what we were doing. I digress, but I think you understand, that was the way it was done, and the Only way it should be done. The connection to him, albeit through his students, was so strong that we felt as though we were taught by Lasansky himself. One can see it is a great testament to his influence and contributions to the medium. Now for the real article....
Mauricio Leib Lasansky (1914-2012) was an Argentine-American graphic artist and printmaker. He chose to focus his artistic energies on the development of printmaking and drawing, thus making him one of a few Modern era artists to do so. The result is a life full of experimentation and dedication to his craft. Lasansky is widely considered to be one of the pioneers in the graphic arts evolution and making the art world look at the medium as critically as any other field. He will forever be enshrined as one of the first and best generations of artists who have defined and guided printmaking in the United States. He is revered as one of the true "Fathers of 20th Century American Printmaking."
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lasansky’s  parents were Eastern European Jews; his Lithuanian-born father, who had made his way to Argentina via North America, had worked as a printer and engraver at the US Mint in Philadelphia. As a talented and ambitious young man of 22, Lasansky became Director of the Free Fine Arts School, in Villa Maria, Cordoba, Argentina. Six years later, he was honored with the first of five highly coveted Guggenheim Fellowships, and he went to the United States to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to study their print collection, which numbers well over 100,000! While there, he learned the history of printmaking and networked with other artists who had also moved to the states. 


After Mauricio married Emilia Barragan in 1937, he began to exhibit his work, regularly winning awards and prizes, and  in the 1940s he and many other artists began to work in printmaking through the WPA graphic arts workshops. Several printmaking studios were established and Lasansky chose to work at the famous Atelier 17, which was established by British artist Stanley William Hayter. Atelier 17 was the first independent American workshop devoted to the Intaglio printmaking process and it developed an international reputation. The artists from this era , like Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, who also worked at Atelier 17, are now referred to as the New York School and their Abstract Expressionist method of working changed intaglio printmaking in America. Many of these artists’ experiments in intaglio printmaking lead to them being invited to organize printmaking departments in universities all across the country.
In 1945, Lasansky was invited to direct and teach the printmaking program at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, IA. The program became one of the premiere places to study printmaking in the US, producing hundred and hundreds of artists/teachers. At the time of his death, Lasansky was recognized as the Virgil M. Hancher Professor Emeritus, head of Printmaking in the School of Art and Art History, where he had taught for more than forty years.

 Many of Lasansky's former students went on to teach at reputable universities to spread the word about printmaking. Some of those former students include Keith Achepohl, Glen Alps, Lee Chesney, David Driesbach, John Ilhe, John Paul Jones, and Robert Wolfe.  The passing of the printmaking torch from generations of teachers to students is what marks the legacy of Atelier 17, Hayter and Lasansky.  

Lasansky’s art is known for his large scale prints (some being four by eight feet in length), utilizing multiple plates (up to 60) and in full color. He even designed a specially-milled French paper for his prints so they would withstand a large amount of printing which often combined etching, drypoint, aquatint and engraving intaglio techniques. Throughout his career, he preferred figurative subjects, seeing them as important as the technical side of his work.
Lasansky is internationally known for a series that marked a departure from his beloved intaglio method, The Nazi Drawings, This series speaks in a most raw and scathing manner about the brutality of Nazi Germany upon its victims. He worked six years on the project, which consists of thirty individual life-sized pieces and one triptych. Their effect upon the viewer is shock and horror. His figures are like ghosts passing through Hell, and he shows them living through their fears in a nightmare that disgustingly was real.  Surprisingly, the drawings were created primarily with lead pencil on common commercial paper. "I wanted them to be done with a tool used by everyone everywhere. From the cradle to the grave, meaning the pencil." And speaking of his inspiration, he said“The Hitler years were in my belly, and I tried many times to do the drawings,” he said. “But then I decided, the hell with it. Why don’t I just put down what I feel? The fact is that people were killed — how cool can you play that?” The Nazi Drawings was one of the first exhibits ever shown at the  Whitney Museum of American Art and have been exhibited in many prominent art museums. They can now be seen at University of Iowa Museum of Art.
In closing, Mauricio Lasansky created some of the most powerful images in contemporary art. He has contributed significantly to printmaking being considered a critical and serious art form of the 20th century and for that our [printmakers] debt to his commitment cannot be repaid.

Awards and Honors:


*Five Guggenheim Fellowships!
*Six honorary Doctorate of Arts degrees
*His work is represented in more than one hundred public collections including virtually EVERY major museum in the United States i.e. the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC., the Art Institute of Chicago  and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
*Internationally recognized, he has been exhibited throughout North and South America, Europe and Russia.
*Became a US citizen in 1952