Robert Motherwell, ‘ THROUGH BLACK EMERGE PURIFIED’, 1983, Christopher-Clark Fine Art
Robert Motherwell, ‘ THROUGH BLACK EMERGE PURIFIED’, 1983, Christopher-Clark Fine Art

El Negro was Motherwell’s second collaboration with Rafael Alberti and his first illustrated album with Kenneth Tyler. The book incorporates Alberti’s poem “Negro Motherwell” (1980). The poet and the artist chose to use El Negro as the album’s formal title. Motherwell has handwritten fragments of the text in many of the lithographic images, augmenting the strong declarative qualities of the poetry.

Robert Motherwell worked with many renowned printers and publishers over the years. To each he brought his own consistent elegance of line and composition, while taking advantage of the special technical expertise of his collaborators. Kenneth Tyler, for many years co-owner and master printer at Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, founded his own press, Tyler Graphics, Ltd., in 1974. El Negro was the most ambitious project undertaken by Tyler and Motherwell, incorporating nineteen original lithographs. Tyler said of Motherwell:

You really can’t figure him out. Almost every printer is scared stiff of him. He can out-talk anyone, logically, not with a bunch of crap but with real logic and information that’s been gained through years of working and searching. You don’t dismiss him in any area.

Series: One of 19 original lithographs created by the artist to illustrate the Rafael Alberti poem El Negro Motherwell.

Publisher: Tyler Graphics Ltd., Bedford Village, New York

Robert Flynn Johnson, Artist’s Books in the Modern Era 1870-2000, Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2001, no. 170.

About Robert Motherwell

Alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell is considered one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters. His esteemed intellect not only undergirded his gorgeous, expressive paintings—frequently featuring bold black shapes against fields of color—but also made Motherwell one of the leading writers, theorists, and advocates of the New York School. He forged close friendships with the European Surrealists and other intellectuals over his interests in poetry and philosophy, and as such served as a vital link between the pre-war avant-garde in Europe and its post-war counterpart in New York, establishing automatism and psychoanalysis as central concerns of American abstraction. "It's not that the creative act and the critical act are simultaneous," Motherwell said. "It's more like you blurt something out and then analyze it.

American, 1915-1991, Aberdeen, Washington, based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut