Georgia Museum of Art

University of Georgia

Athens, GA



Leonard Baskin: Monumental Prints


"Leonard Baskin: Monumental Prints" will he on view at the Georgia Museum of Art from January 9 until March 4, 2001. The 12 monumental woodcuts that Baskin created between 1952 and 1963, as well as a series of Holocaust woodcuts created in 1998, comprise this provocative and powerful exhibition of innovative images. Organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco with additions by Baskin's Gehenna Press for the Athens venue, this is the first posthumous exhibition of the artist's work. Leonard Baskin died June 6, 2000. This exhibition includes his last print.

Monumental woodcuts, fashioned from multiple blocks joined together, were made as early as the Renaissance by artists such as Jacopo de Barbari, Hans Schäufelein and Albrecht Dürer. The subjects were usually grand views, narrative compositions, or large ornamental sculptures. The work.s were the printmaking equivalent of a large painting. This form of printmaking went out of fashion by the end of the 16th century and, with the exception of lithographic posters that became a popular commercial medium at the end of the 19th century, grand scale was not often pursued by artist/printmakers. (left: Person Wandering in the Terribleness of Death, 1998, woodcut, 40 x 66 inches)

In 1952 Baskin, who had previously depicted the human figure full size in sculpture, decided to do the same in printmaking. The monumental woodcuts that followed were traditionally pieced together from multiple blocks but, in a break with tradition, Baskin fused them together to create a single, united image. The subject matter of these immense woodcuts is humanity in various guises of emotional conflict. Scale, complexity of design, emotional content, and the use of intense colors black and deep red are the hallmarks of both the early prints and the Holocaust series to be exhibited at the Georgia Museum of Art.

Since the 1970s many artists, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, and Ellsworth Kelly, have returned to large-scale printmaking, but Baskin was the first contemporary artist to make prints of this size, and his monuments of graphic art were a technical breakthrough and virtuoso artistic achievement. According to Baskin, "The great makers of prints in the past: sanely printed impressions of their blocks and plates until either every demand was required, or the printing surfaces wore out. And we now are the awed and grateful heirs of that prodigality. How perverse to circumvent the very wondrous intent of multiple images by making them few. Here there are ... prints, grotesque, unmanageable and unlimited. Heaven help them."

Romita Ray is in-house curator of the exhibition, on view in the George-Ann and Boone Knox Gallery of prints and Drawings.

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Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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