Published: November 20, 2012
The Pasadena Museum of California Art presents “White on Black: The Modernist Prints of Paul Landacre,” on view through February 24.
The exhibition features Paul Landacre’s wood engravings from 1930s, which proved to be the most prolific period of his career. While most artists who created black and white art used black lines on a white background, Landacre became renowned for doing the opposite: his engravings are white lines on a black background. In essence, he thought backwards, reversing the drawing process when making the initial designs and again while engraving the wood blocks.
Using an approach that was at the heart of the progressive graphic art movement, Landacre’s work was considered abstract, with a main image based on recognizable subject matter, surrounded by nonobjective shapes and patterns. In American and European art circles he was known as a Progressive Modernist, yet his fine art prints were appreciated and praised by even the most conservative art critics.
All of his woodblock prints were engraved and printed at his home on “The Hill” in the Edendale district (now Echo Park) of Los Angeles, and many of his prints feature the neighborhood around his house. Many of the prints in the exhibition are from the collection of Hollywood luminary Delmer Daves, who was a huge champion of Landacre’s work.
When the artist faced financial problems during the Great Depression, Daves, renowned bookseller and gallery owner Jake Zietlen, who gave Landacre his first exhibition, and book designer Ward Richie formed the Landacre Association, to which each of Landacre’s collectors would contribute $100. These contributions supported Landacre’s printmaking and the collectors, in turn, would receive one of the editions of each of his prints. As Daves always received the first of each series, many of the engravings now on view in the exhibition are numbered “1.”
During this time, Landacre became recognized as one the most important printmakers of the Twentieth Century, emerging as one of the leaders in an American revival of fine art wood engraving. After the 1930s, he devoted less time to his own practice, choosing to focus his energies on making prints for books and on teaching at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, where he worked until he died in 1963.
The exhibition features nearly 25 prints and is curated by Gordon McClelland, an art historian advancing the field of research in California Style watercolors.
The museum is at 490 East Union Street. For more information, www.pmcaonline.org or 626-568-3665.
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