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Gustave Baumann Exhibition Captures Quality of Artisan Printmaking, Spirit of Coming Home

April 4, 2012

Gustave Baumann: Artisan Printmaker of the Southwest opens April 7 at Phoenix Art Museum

PHOENIX, April 4, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Beginning April 7, 2012, Phoenix Art Museum will present the work of Gustave Baumann, artisan printmaker (1881-1971) with the largest exhibition of his work in the state of Arizona. With more than 43 individual pieces, this important exhibition amplifies Baumann’s love affair with the landscapes and indigenous cultures of the Southwest, in a medium that is staggering in its detail, complexity and palette. In addition to his woodblock prints, the exhibition will also include a rare oil painting, a handcrafted marionette, and a sample of the carved blocks used to create his work. An homage to the timeless art of this intricate craft, Gustave Baumann: Artisan Printmaker of the Southwest will be on view in the Orme Lewis Gallery, through July 8, 2012.

Born in Germany and reared in Chicago, it might seem strange to consider Baumann an artist of the Southwest. But Baumann fell in love with the landscape, culture and people of the Southwest on a cross-continental journey by train from Indiana to New Mexico, in 1918, and stayed in New Mexico for the next 50 years. It was the world he discovered there that spoke to him as a creator. He would later say, “Given a free choice in the matter, I would have selected the Southwest as the place to be born.”

Among the collection on view at Phoenix Art Museum are the prints he made from his visit to the Grand Canyon in 1921, which feature a unique visual perspective that imparts a sense of the scope and scale of the massive canyon, as well as his ability to capture light and its effects on the canyon’s hues, from the midnight blues of shadow to the brilliant goldenrod of the alpenglow on the canyon’s peaks and plateaus. In addition, the exhibition features additional Southwestern landscapes, as well as an outside observer’s portrayal of Native American ceremonies and life.

The exhibition also examines the artisan-quality of Baumann’s color woodcut prints, a medium that stemmed from his art education in Munich during the early 1900s, and an extension of the late 19th century ideals of handcrafted artistry. The term “artisan” stems from the Latin artigiano, from a root word that means “instructed in the arts.” Today’s audiences have become familiar with the term “artisan” as a buzzword that represents objects that are high quality and handcrafted, utilizing traditional methods in smaller quantities. Either meaning is apt for the body of Baumann’s work as a printmaker.

While the creative process was a solitary one, the experience of his art is not. Baumann’s work is at once accessible and intriguing, both in terms of style and subject matter, as the artist sought a medium that provided access to art for many people. Throughout his life, Baumann remained committed to his art in a modest and unpretentious manner despite national acclaim. His philosophy was one of manifesting art in the daily world as a way of enhancing the enjoyment of everyday life. For Jerry Smith, Curator of Western and American Art at Phoenix Art Museum, who organized the exhibition, Gustave Baumann has a universal appeal, a kind of unassuming accessibility that resonates with many. “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Gustave Baumann once they’ve seen his work. He speaks to an appreciation for nature and living amongst nature in a way no one else does,” Smiths says.

Baumann’s life also resonates. In a city of transplants, a community of peoples who have gathered from all parts of the country and the world to call Phoenix home, Baumann’s art speaks to the unsurpassed quality of the American Southwest to become a new homeland to persons of diverse backgrounds.

The exhibition is from the collection of Gil Waldman, and has been lent in memory of his wife, Nancy.

SOURCE Phoenix Art Museum


Source: PR Newswire