Bernard Jacobson Gallery is delighted to announce a retrospective of limited edition prints by the American Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), in the modernist location of Kunsthalle Koidl. Throughout his long and distinguished career, Robert Motherwell produced a remarkable body of work that ranks among the most notable achievements in postwar American art. In addition to creating his celebrated paintings, drawings and collages, Motherwell was a renowned and innovative printmaker; producing more than 500 prints.
Motherwell first learned about printmaking through the surrealists, who having emigrated from a troubled Europe to the States, had established workshops there for artists to work together and exchange their ideas and thoughts. In 1940 Motherwell joined them in the workshop of Kurt Seligmann in New York where he studied etching and first began to adopt the surrealist’s technique of psychic automatism, an artistic strategy where chance and accident is allowed to dictate the structure of a composition freed from rational control. This experience continued to influence Motherwell’s production, leaving a mark in later editions such as Gesture IV (1976-177) and Gesture III (1977).
His interest in printmaking was re-ignited in the 1960s, and this brought him to work in large workshops such as Universal Art Editions and Hollander Workshop, gaining extensive experience in the various printmaking techniques.
“To work with such craftsmen has been a joy and a welcome break from the essential solitude in which the artist works...no modern artist is an island – individual as he is...he works and lives owing, in part, of the givingness – and skills of others.”
The beginning of the 70s marked an important shift in Motherwell’s printmaking career. In 1973, he decided to buy his own etching and lithography press for his studio in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he was able to work independently. In the same year, Motherwell hired the master printer Catherine Mosley, who worked with him in his studio for almost twenty years until his death in 1991.
“I had always loved working on paper, but it was the camaraderie of the artist-printer relationship that tilted the scale definitely.”
Nonetheless, he joined the many artists attracted by Gemini G.E.L. in Los Angeles, and signed the first print produced with them in 1973 The Summer Light Series (1973), made of eleven works with coloured paper, cigarettes packages and wine labels, in bright yellow and light blue, was one of the first editions he produced with Kenneth Tyler at Gemini, and is a landmark print for its unique combination of the techniques of collage and printing. Indeed, the fruitful relationship with Tyler continued long after he established his own New York workshop, and resulted in large-scale works such as Bastos (1975). The black splatter to the edges with the enlarged lithographic image and the large scale make Bastos (1975) a work that has the impact of Motherwell’s most powerful canvases.
As well as working with Tyler, Motherwell found working in his own studio with his own press extremely liberating. Surrounded by his paintings, prints and collages, Motherwell explored the art of printmaking like no other Abstract Expressionist artist, combining traditional techniques with impromptu drawings and pasted paper. He was then able to further explore recurrent themes in his oeuvre such as the much-celebrated Elegy series, as seen in Elegy Black Black (1983) and Running Elegy II, Blue State (1983).
The exhibition brings together an extensive selection of Motherwell’s works as a printmaker and represents the impressive variety and in-depth understanding of the medium, as part of the rest of his production, that of a great American Giant.