January 16, 2003
Master Printmaker Robert Blackburn Honored in Exhibition at Library of Congress
Exhibition Opens in North Gallery of Great Hall Feb. 26
Robert Blackburn changed the course of American art through his groundbreaking graphic work and the Printmaking Workshop, which he founded in New York City in 1948. Blackburn's pioneering contributions to the technical and aesthetic development of abstract color lithography is as legendary as his generosity in encouraging and training thousands of diverse artists to experiment in graphic color.
"Creative Space: Fifty Years of Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop," features some 60 pieces of artwork from the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Archives and Collection, which is now on deposit at the Library of Congress. The exhibition includes a core selection of Blackburn's own work and a dazzling array of prints by collaborators and students, as well as friends and colleagues, including Will Barnet, Romare Bearden, Kathy Caraccio, Ronald Joseph, Mohammed Khalil, Faith Ringgold and Juan Sanchez.
The exhibition, which is presented by the Library along with International Print Center New York and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, opens in the North Gallery of the Jefferson Building's Great Hall, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26 and will remain on view through June 28. Hours for the exhibition are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday. This exhibition and its programming were made possible through the generous support of Merrrill Lynch.
Curated with guest scholar Deborah Cullen, Museo del Barrio, New York City, "Creative Space" examines the life and work of Robert Blackburn in five sections. The first section, "Milieu: The Harlem Community Art Center and the WPA," examines Blackburn's early life and career, his teachers and colleagues at the time, and formative influences on his work.
The second section, "Founding the Printmaking Workshop," follows Blackburn's development from his time at the Art Students League and his experience as a freelance artist during the 1940s to the opening of his own Chelsea studio in 1948.
The third section, "A Graphic Explosion," focuses on Blackburn's work during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time he was the first master printer at the prestigious Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) lithographic press in Long Island, N.Y., where he collaborated with such artists as Robert Rauschenberg and Helen Frankenthaler.
"Incorporation, Experimentation, and Outreach," the fourth section, shows how Blackburn, with increased exposure and sponsorship for the Printmaking Workshop, inspired a wide range of artists and stimulated further technical innovations as well as creative and intellectual exchanges in the printmaking community.
Finally, "Seeds and Collaborations" looks at the history of the Printmaking Workshop as a model for other studios in this country and abroad.
The outstanding quality and breadth of the works in the exhibition attest to the enduring vision of the Printmaking Workshop's founder and director and the generations of artists who have worked at the studio under his guidance. Blackburn has been teacher and friend to thousands of artists, serving in equal parts as master printer, technical adviser, fundraiser, diplomat, catalyst and instigator.
The Library of Congress is working with the non-profit Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts to acquire and preserve more than 2,000 fine prints by 1,311 artist-members of the Printmaking Workshop -- a remarkable record of artistic achievement created during the past 50 years.
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