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Leonard Baskind: Cutting to the Essence



This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education
(http://chronicle.com) was forwarded to you from: verheyen@philobiblon.com

   From the issue dated February 2, 2001

   Cutting to the Essence

      Are we not kin to Goya? Then how can we abide an art that
   does not bleed when we prick it? The art of our time is an art
   of cowardice, a triumph of the trivial, a squandering of
   treasure. The forging of works of art is one of man's
   remaining semblances to divinity. --1963

   When one becomes agile and adroit with knife and gouge, one's
   hands fly over the woodcut with felicitous ease. Size becomes
   an unimportant element, and very large woodcuts are
   comfortable and possible. And why not lift the woodcut to
   greater importance, granting it further power and complexity?
   In 1952, ... I was a desperate figurative sculptor; the
   current mode was abstract expressionism, which carried all
   before it. I characterized the paintings as reeking of "fecal
   anxiety and visceral despair." I still think so. I tended to
   use the woodcut as a political device. I came to understand
   that sculpture, however strong, is destroyed when it is
   quotidian and political. The woodcut is essentially ephemeral
   and thus, readily social. The problem I then faced was that
   the lumber shops only sold boards spreading to 12 inches, and
   I was too poor for lamination. I bought two planks and several
   archly named Scotch brads, and joined the boards crudely
   together. How fortunate for the woodcuts that they are infused
   with qualities of the ambiguous. Thus, is the "Hydrogen Man" a
   victim or a perpetrator, is the "Hanged Man" innocent or
   guilty, does "Everyman" ascend or descend? The ambiguity can
   be subtle, working virtually invisibly but succinctly on
   meaning, enlarging intentions and deepening content. --2000

   The text and woodcuts are by Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), from
   the catalog accompanying the exhibition "Leonard Baskin:
   Monumental Woodcuts, 1952-1963," at the University of
   Georgia's Georgia Museum of Art through March 4. The
   exhibition was organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San
   Francisco.

_________________________________________________________________
Copyright 2001 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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