Published: December 16, 2008
On view at the Hammer Museum through February 8, “Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now” examines the woodcut in terms of its diverse forms and uses in the modern era. A thematic survey, it invites parallels between the medium in countries as diverse and geographically distant as Mexico, France and Korea.
The exhibition is divided into four thematic sections. The first section traces the woodcut’s emergence as a modern medium with works by Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky and the German Expressionists. It also features woodcuts by skilled yet little known Indian artists working in Calcutta in the 1870s.
The second section focuses on artists who incorporate the grain of the wood within their compositions, thus making the medium integral to the subjects depicted. Here, Munch’s iconic “The Kiss” (1897‱902) is displayed among works by Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Rothenberg, Terry Winters and anonymous Mexican and Tibetan artists.
The third section examines the use of the woodcut as a vehicle for public expression. It includes monumental Cuban revolutionary banners, bold cuts by members of the Mexican graphics collective El Taller de Gráfica Popular, such as Elizabeth Catlett and Leopoldo Méndez, Georg Baselitz’s haunting “The Eagle,” 1981, and the powerful yet eerie “Stowage” by Willie Cole, 1997.
The final section looks at sacred and devotional imagery in woodcuts. Among the highlights is the sculptural installation “The Ways of Wisdom,” 2000 by Korean artist Shin Young-ok. Drawing on a tradition of printed prayer books and literary texts that stretches back over centuries, she has woven streams of paper cut from a woodblock-printed book into five separate three-dimensional scrolls. Her reinterpretation of the woodcut medium and the historical inspirations behind it encapsulate the core motivations of the artists in this exhibition.
The Hammer Museum is at 10899 Wilshire Boulevard at Westwood Boulevard. For information, 310-443-7000 or www.hammer.ucla.edu .
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