Center for Maine Contemporary Art Presents Will Barnet Master Printmaker: Selected Prints from Five Decades

Will Barnet–Master Printmaker: Selected Prints from Five Decades combines 14 widely known representational prints of family and personal memories with a series of very rare, less well-known abstract prints from the 1950s and ’60s that appeared at the Lieber Museum on Long Island, New York, in 2009. Exhibition open through September 25 2010.

Together the exhibition offers a strong cross-section of Barnet’s interest in printmaking, which reaches back to his early days as a student at the Boston Museum School and continues when he was a student specifically chosen by his mentor, Reginald Marsh at the Art Students League, beginning in 1931. Five years later, Barnet became the official printer for the Art Students League in New York, where he taught printmaking and painting for four decades. His own teaching — there as well as at Cornell University, Cooper Union in New York City, Yale University, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art — influenced many famous American artists, including the late Bob Blackburn, an African American artist whose legendary fine art print shop got underway thanks to his mentor, Will Barnet.

While Barnet’s work is largely representational, his interest in abstraction, begun in the late 1940s, can be gleaned in more recent work from his elegant figures depicted as flat surfaces. At the time, Barnet experimented both in painting and printmaking with eliminating realistic space by substituting a painting space based on the rectangular horizontal and vertical forms. Yet, his choice of colors, abstracted shapes, and interlocking forms resulted from the artist’s deep responses to the natural world around him. Last May, Barnet, now 99 years of age, exhibited abstract paintings accomplished over the past four years at the Alexandre Gallery in New York City. By combining significant examples of both representational and abstract prints in two adjoining galleries, viewers of Barnet’s exhibition will discover how closely aligned both bodies of work are.

The Colby College Art Museum is presenting a series of drawings and prints never before exhibited entitled “Will Barnet: New York Drawings and Prints, the 1930s” through October 17. Together, these exhibitions celebrate an American iconic artist who continues to travel from New York City to spend several weeks each summer near Bath, Maine.

Will Barnet has received many of the most prestigious awards available to artists. Among them are the first Artist’s Lifetime Achievement Award Medal from the National Academy of Design; the College Art Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award; the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art’s Lippincott Prize; an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston; and a Medal of Honor from the National Arts Club in New York. He was also elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England, in 1978. His works are in many of the foremost museums in the United States, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as in many of Maine’s top museums. He has enjoyed more than 80 solo exhibitions.

Image: Will Barnet, Big Grey, by Will Barnet, 1962

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