Saturday, April 25, 2015

New York City's Immigrant Printmaker Martin Lewis

Australian-born printmaker, Martin Lewis (1881–1962) came from Castlemaine, Victoria. As a migrant to the United States, Lewis was deeply involved in the artistic scene of New York City during the 1920s and ‘30s and he lived in the city for most of his career.
Lewis portrayed all aspects of city life including workers, buildings, and the city’s inhabitants. He liked depicting the ladies walking to and from work in their wraps and high heels. He produced prints that captured the pulse of New York City; reading as a cross-section of urban life and the sprawl of suburbia.
Lewis came from a large family of eight children and at the age of 15 he set out to start his career as an artist; traveling to New South Wales and New Zealand. He mainly did heavy manual labor jobs before he returned to Sydney and settled into a Bohemian community.
During this brief period, some of Lewis’ art was published in Sydney’s newspaper, The Bulletin, and he studied at the Art Society's School with noted Australian artist/printmaker, Julian Ashton.
In 1900, Lewis left Australia for the United States. He went to California and got a job painting stage decorations for presidential campaigner William McKinley. Then he later moved to New York, where he worked as a commercial illustrator.
1915 is the first known date of a printed image by Lewis that we find, although it seems he was already familiar with the process. During this period, he helped Edward Hopper learn printmaking and when we see their images, we can see the similarities in composition, line and movement.
In 1920, Lewis traveled to Japan where he studied Japanese art. The influence of Japanese prints was very strong in Lewis's prints, when starting in 1925, he produced a group of eighty-one etching up until 1935. (This was out of his one hundred and forty-eight known images.)
Lewis's first solo exhibition in 1929 was successful enough for him to concentrate entirely on printmaking. Lewis is most famous for his black and white prints, mostly of night scenes of New York City. During the Depression, however, he left NYC between 1932 and 1936 and moved to Newtown, Connecticut. When Lewis returned to New York City, he discovered the interest in his work had passed. He also taught at the Art Students League from 1944 to 1951. He died in 1962 in New York City in relative obscurity.
In 2011, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, presented a highly acclaimed exhibition of Lewis’ work.
I have to say that Martin lewis' work grabbed me at first sight. It has a swing to it, and then there are images where we feel like the character he puts into the composition, where we look up at the skyscrapers of the city in awe, or look down upon the brightly lit street scenes at night.
Lewis' influence of Japanese art is strongly felt through his long diagonal lines and interesting angles of the street scenes. Whether the people of the city are heavily clad in their coats sloshing through a bitter winter scene, or barely clad in summer attire looking for a cool place to get in from the hot evening air, we feel the pulse of the city and the people that maneuver through it.
I especially enjoy how Lewis recreates the bluster of a winter snowstorm, and the steady gentle rain of spring.He understands the weather and its effects upon people in the street.
Likewise, i like how he handles groups of women going out at night together, or coming home after their work shifts. Also, the boys playing in the back of the yards neighborhood, burning their own evening fire, or the dockworkers against the New York skyline are a sight to behold for their individuality, and the stirring beauty of the city's architectural achievements at that time.
Lewis adopted New York City as his own, and his love of the city and its inhabitants is palpable. It goes to show that immigrants can entirely embrace the best and the worst of a different culture, sometimes more than the people who were born in their own country. Lewis loved the hustle and the rush of the city, and breadth of it's grandeur. We are fortunate to have rediscovered this printmaking treasure, for he has captured the essence of New York City as it was climbing in prominence, and became the mecca of the world.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Lovis "the Stratcher" Corinth

Oh, yes. There it is, my friends. See that line? That wonderful, scratched up, beautiful line can only be attributed to the 'master scratcher' printmaker, Mr. Lovis Corinth. The more we look at Mr. Corinth's works, the more we learn about humanity; the complexities of life and death. His furry, blurred lines can simultaneously define and obliterate form. They can caress the side of a scruffy tree, or let us experience the soft flesh of a lover. They are coarse and refined. Honestly, the guy can draw.

How we see Corinth's work depends on what side of the printmaking scale we sit. There are those among us who would care to define what is before us, and gracefully render objects and persons we recognize. Then there are those of us who would dare to take a line, throw a little passion into it, and make emotions come to life. Corinth slides back and forth along that scale with ease, equally comfortable to make tender landscapes, quirky self-portraits, or harsh statements about brutality.

He is able to make his drawing instrument do what he wants and from the efforts we get expressions beyond the descriptive. His self-portraits are oddities, and show a man trying to find something behind the outerlayer.

Skulls play a prominent role in his works, as if to say he is making a vanita piece. The efforts to make an image of life and love and passion and sacrifice can all be seen through the lens of a vanita where everything we do and labor for in our lives is a waste of time of our souls aren't saved, etc, etc. Those 17th c. still-life pieces from Spain and Holland aren't the only artists who can describe a vanita. Corinth describes, moreover, a fascination with immortality, death and what lies beneath our skins' veneer. He is curious, studious, serious and goes about his business rendering object and emotion in an eloquent, yet brutish fashion.
The man's work is small in scale but has a command of the composition to fill and overwhelm it with movement and swarthiness. The lines wrap around objects and figures and they swirl about the space between so we cannot feel a calm about these pictures. They are too actively charged to be quiet little prints on one man's artistic musings.

Even Corinth's landscapes have motion and movement of the trees and wind and water, even when the composition has open areas. Like Cezanne, Corinth chooses not to fill it all in. Thank goodness. Some of the best works have openness to breathe and let us gather in a small breath before we have to charge in amongst the chaotic lines through the rest of the picture.

Corinth gives is the measure of his intensity, his gaze. We can appreciate the beautifully messed up-ness of his furry lines and those scratchy patches that cling to the ink in a way that makes us want to run our fingers over the surface of his work. The elegance of a loving couple is what I will leave you to ponder the delicacy and fervency of their engagement.

Lovis may be a scratcher printmaker, but we all can do with a little scratched up lines from time to time.

1858 - born Franz Heinrich Louis in Tapiau, Prussia. The son of a tanner.
1876 - went to study painting in the academy of Königsberg.
1880 - attended the Academy of Fine Art in Munich, which rivaled Paris as the avant-garde art center in Europe at the time. There he was influenced by Courbet and the Barbizon school. Louis then traveled to Antwerp and then Paris where he studied at the Académie Julian. He returned to Königsberg.
1888 - adopted the name "Lovis Corinth"
1891- returned to Munich, joined the Munich Secession.
1899 - participated in an exhibition organized by the Berlin Secession.
1900 – moved to Berlin
1902 - opened a school of painting for women and married his first student, Charlotte Berend, some 20 years his junior and became mother of his two children.
1911 - suffered a stroke, and was partially paralyzed on his left side.
1915–25 - served as President of the Berlin Secession.
1891 – did first etching, favored drypoint and lithography.He made 12 woodcuts, all of them between 1919–1924. In the last 15 years of his life he produced more than 1200 graphic works, including 60 self-portraits.
1921 - received an honorary doctorate from the University of Königsberg
1925 - traveled to the Netherlands, caught pneumonia and died in Zandvoort.
The house where Corinth was born can be found now in Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Guanlan International Printmaking Biennial Exhibition is Coming!

China's printmaking mecca, Guanlan, is preparing for this international printmaking exhibition of mega printmakers. Catch this link to pictures of their preparations for thousands of prints. The work is amazing indeed!
Name of Biennial: 2015 Guanlan International Print Biennial
Curator: Kang Jianfei, Liu Libin
Secretary of curator : Zhao Jiachun,Xiao Lulu
Exhibition place: China Printmaking Museum
Exhibition period: Middle May, 2015
Number of exhibited works: 200 to 300 pieces
Deadline for receiving works: February 25, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter and the Wrascally Wrabbit

Oh, it's that time once again, my dear inked up friends, when we take a small reprieve from our busy schedules, and we partake in the rituals of Easter and Spring. Eggs and chocolate candy will be found aplenty, but it is the rabbit who must also make his/her appearance for the Easter holiday. I have rounded up a few of the wrascally creatures via some mighty fine printmakers's works on the subject.
I trust you will enjoy seeing them as much as I have, so please take a look and admire the works of our colleagues on Mr. Wrabbit. Happy Easter to All!