April 09, 2020

UMaine art museum exhibits to showcase printmaking

BANGOR – The University of Maine Museum of Art will present two printmaking exhibitions Oct. 20-Jan. 13 as part of “Celebrating 200 Years of Printmaking in Maine” and in collaboration with The Maine Print Project.

“Richard Estes: Prints” and “John Marin: A Print Survey” will draw from the museum’s extensive print collection as well as numerous loans. The exhibitions will feature prints made by Marin throughout his career and by Estes from the 1980s to the present.

Both artists, known for their interest in urban landscapes, were nevertheless influenced by their relationship to Maine. The museum also will present “Bernard Langlais: Abstract Wood Reliefs,” 14 works by Maine artist Langlais. These relief sculptures, from the late 1950s and early 1960s, employ simple forms and a limited palette and predate the carved, assembled figurative imagery he is known for.

“John Marin: A Print Survey”

In the cities of the early 20th century, John Marin, 1870-1953, observed “great forces at work.” It was that force Marin deftly captured in his etchings of Paris and New York. UMMA will present a selection of etchings, hand-printed by Marin, of these urban visions.

Marin, born in New Jersey, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia 1899-1901 and the Art Students League in New York during 1904. In 1905 Marin went to Paris, where his father helped finance his art career.

Within a year, Marin began etching scenes from the city. To capture the spontaneity of the scene, Marin often etched directly onto copper plates, leading to final prints that were mirror images.

Marin also visited Amsterdam, London and Venice. With time, he began to shed the more architectural concerns of representation and focused on the essentials of a building – after 1908 his etchings became more loose and free-form.

An accomplished printmaker, he often used a single plate to experiment with methods of printing and would mark the prints with his evaluation or notation, such as A1, Best print, a Beaut.

Marin adopted the practice of etching his name and the date directly into the plate; those prints that did go out into the art world were usually signed in pencil. After meeting Alfred Steiglitz in 1909, Marin returned to the United States with the photographer as his patron.

Marin had his first solo exhibition at Stieglitz’ Photo-Secession Gallery. Steiglitz became an early collector of Marin’s plates, proofs and etchings, and his extensive collection is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Marin lived in Cliffside, N.J., from 1916 until his death in 1953, spending summers in the Berkshires, the Adirondacks, the Delaware River country and Maine. Most of all he loved the coast of Maine, summering in Small Point or Deer Isle and, for 20 years, at Cape Split.

“Richard Estes: Prints”

Meticulous, grand and authoritative, Richard Estes’ prints of cityscapes recall the tradition of the Old Masters, reflect Pop Art’s rendering of the everyday, evoke Cubist approaches and yet remain completely modern.

There is serenity in the scenes, a captured moment, frozen in time, when one imagines being the only person left to wander the city. Subversively appealing at first glance, Estes’ visions might suddenly create a moment of panic when it becomes clear that one is alone in this vision. It is that starkness, the lack of human presence that belies his designation as a photo-realist.

The absence of the human element perhaps aligns Estes’ work more closely to conceptualism or minimalism. He regularly works from his own photographic compositions when creating a painting or print, sometimes combining multiple images.

Through this composite process, Estes creates a scene more “real” than what could be captured in a single photograph. His prints are as subtly layered and vibrant as his well-known paintings, depicting urban landscapes from New York to Salzburg.

Born in Illinois, Estes received his first oil painting set as a child and attended the Chicago Art Institute. In 1956, he moved to New York as a freelance illustrator. Eventually he pursued a full-time career as a fine artist, creating mostly figurative studies.

In the early 1960s he began painting urban landscapes. Estes’ first solo show was in 1968 at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York. His work can be found in public and private collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Guggenheim Museum, New York City; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City.

“Bernard Langlais: Abstract Wood Reliefs”

Bernard Langlais, 1921-1977, was born in Old Town. Although he had no formal artistic training in high school, he decided on a career as an artist at a young age. After serving in the Navy, he attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington and received a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, which changed his focus from commercial to fine art.

Skowhegan gave him a scholarship to the Brooklyn Museum School, where he studied with German Expressionist painter Max Beckmann. In the early 1950s Langlais studied at the Academie de la Grand Chaumirre in Paris and received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the works of Edvard Munch in Norway.

Langlais’ experiments with wood began in 1956, when he returned from Norway and bought a summer cottage in Cushing. During renovations, he rebuilt an interior wall by piecing together scraps of wood.

Langlais found the work invigorating and inspiring, and continued to create abstract wall reliefs to great acclaim in New York in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These seminal works seem to unify a serial use of wood elements with discreet uses of color. The works celebrate their process of construction.

Works from this series were included in the important assemblage exhibition “New Forms – New Media” at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960 as well as a solo exhibition at the ground-breaking Leo Castelli Gallery in 1961.

Even as he continued to develop his technique in what he called “painting in wood,” figurative imagery began to dominate his work. When Langlais moved to Maine full time in 1966, he was making room-sized wall reliefs which soon grew into monumental statues that still populate the yard around his home in Cushing. He died in 1977, leaving a lasting legacy in the arts of his native state.

The University of Maine Museum of Art is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 40 Harlow St. Admission, $3. No charge for museum members and UM students with Maine Card.

Large Oval by Bernard Langlais

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