Blocks of color
October 30, 2009 | One of the country's finest collections of American color woodcuts is now being featured in the exhibition Blocks of Color: American Woodcuts from the 1890s to the Present at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, through January 3, 2010.
The Zimmerli has one of the largest university print collections in the country and is particularly strong in turn-of-the-twentieth-century American color woodcuts, inspired by the British arts and crafts movement and Japanese ukiyo-e color prints, which its former director Phillip Dennis Cate began actively collecting in the 1970s and 1980s. The current exhibition of some one hundred objects, drawn primarily from the museum's collection and augmented by a few select loans, features rare examples by Arthur Wesley Dow and his contemporaries Helen Hyde and Bertha Lum, as well as a number of ambitious examples by members of the second generation of American woodcut printers—Helen Frankenthaler, Jim Dine, and Richard Diebenkorn, among others.
The exhibition also brings to light works by a number of lesser known artists such as Frances Gearhart and Edna Boies Hopkins, who spent summers in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the early twentieth century and helped to make the area a center for printmaking. Another revelation is the large-scale Classical Horse and Rider (1953) by the Chinese American artist Seong Moy, an intricately layered abstraction in which energetic sweeps of color are overlaid with forms suggesting Chinese calligraphy.
Blocks of Color was organized by Christine Giviskos, associate curator for nineteenth-century European art at the Zimmerli, with Marilyn Symmes, director of the museum's Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts and curator of prints and drawings. There is no accompanying catalogue, but a symposium on American woodcuts is scheduled for October 21.
Blocks of Color: American Woodcuts from the 1890s to the Present · Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey · through January 3, 2010 · www.zimmerli museum.rutgers.edu
Images from above: The Derelict (The Lost Boat) by Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), 1916. Color woodcut, 7 1⁄16 by 5 3⁄8 inches. Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, acquired with the Brother International Corporation Japonisme Art Acquisition Fund; photograph by Bryan Whitney; The Sauce-Pan Shop by Helen Hyde (1868-1919), 1908. Signed "Helen Hyde" at lower left. Color woodcut, 13 1⁄16 by 18 inches. Zimmerli Art Museum, Ralph and Barbara Voorhees American Art Fund; Whitney photograph.