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Old 09-28-2011, 01:04 PM
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James verDoorn James verDoorn is offline
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

Hi Barbara.... yes, there is a great deal of the Goya presence in the Nazi Drawings.... demons and all. Thank you for your comments.

BlueRider... Your quote is a wonderful one. It's fun. But to put it in context the author of the article, in talking about Lasansky, says:

"He is given to bold, sometimes outlandish statements that are as much meant to provoke the listener as to define some truth. It’s what happens when the artist also is a teacher."

Thanks for commenting.
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Old 10-02-2011, 09:06 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

Sorry I am tardy to this discussion, but I was introduced to the Nazi Prints and the work of Lasansky back in Iowa, at the University of Iowa Museum of Art -- likely in 1968 or so. Our church youth group leader, Bob Naujoks, who was a Cedar Rapids radio and television personality (and an artist in his own right) and a member of the church I belonged to, loaded us up in his VW van and took us on a short field trip to meet the works and the artist. I recall it made quite an impression on our teen-age minds, and I have since returned a number of times to the facility (before the 2008 flood) to see the prints again.

I recall being most impressed with Lasanky's ability to make the viewer feel the horror of the holocaust. Lasanky helped establish the print school at U of I and helped create a movement during which many other schools created printmaking departments patterned after his workshop.
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Old 10-02-2011, 10:14 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

I wish I had come across this thread earlier. My art school intaglio professor was a student of Lasansky and as a result I not only knew many of his works intimately... to the point of being able to handle prints pulled in the print shop... but I actually met him. Along with Stanley Hayter, Lasansky is largely responsible for establishing printmaking as a serious artistic endeavor in the US. Lasansky's prints were often quite large and built up in layers combining etching, aquatint, drypoint, and engraving (the favorite of Hayter). The surfaces are often quite tactile... with engraved and etched lines cut or burnt deeply into the metal plates so that they took on an embossed nature in person. Printmaking has long had a tradition linked with social-political commentary dating back to Durer, and including the effort of artists such as Daumier, Toulouse-Latrec, Rowlandson, Goya, William Blake, Picasso, and Leonard Baskin. Lasansky, like another artist intimately connected with my alma mater, Rico Lebrun...



... rejected the formalist abstraction of Joseph Albers and the Clement Greenberg and embraced the Expressionism of Picasso and Germans such as Max Beckmann as well as the great Mexican muralists and equally embraced their notion of utilizing art as a means of confronting socio-political-economic realities.

I remember any number of these prints from my art school stint:









The "Nazi Drawings" are indeed powerful:







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Old 10-02-2011, 11:02 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

With few exceptions, his whole life's work beyond his Nazi drawings struck me as having depressing colors and atmposphere. His whole life's work... I might ask myself, "Would I paint like that time and time again?" My answer, of course, would be, "No." Then I might ask myself, "Why not?" My answer would be, "Because I would get no enjoyment from constantly creating such unhappy looking art. It would seriously depress me if I forced myself to do so."

So I might think, "How could one possibly create such things one's whole life?" My best guess would be that the person was depressed most of the time to start with. More than a few famous artists have said something to the effect of "One's art is a reflection of one's self."

Yes, I could be wrong. He may be a really cheerful person. In any case, I was expressing how most of his works struck me. There's no question about his printmaking skill. I just don't enjoy how he used it.


Seriously, I don't find prints such as this:



or this:



or this:



to be overly depressing. Yet even if it were so, I would not assume that the artist lived in an eternal state of depression. Art does indeed convey something about us... we express something of ourselves through it... but we do not convey the whole of who we are. The human being is far too complex to be reduced to a work of art.

George Braque suggested that he didn't necessarily make the art he liked, but rather the art that he could make. I have the greatest respect for those artist who can powerfully face the dark recesses of human experience and convey this to us... lead us to confront that which we might not wish to think about. Goya, Bruegel, Bosch, Grunwald, Daumier, Picasso, Dix, Grosz, Beckmann, and certainly Lasansky were able to achieve this.

Such is not the path I choose... or am even capable of. This does not mean that such social issues are irrelevant to me. Perhaps I find that I can confront these better through other means. Perhaps this is not an aspect of who I am that I need to get out through my art. Personally, I am drawn to create an art of unabashed beauty... sensuality... love and eroticism. Bonnard and Matisse were both taken to task for continuing to create works of beauty, sensuality, love and eroticism in spite of the war raging across Europe. Somehow I doubt Matisse or Bonnard could have painted shattered images of horror like Picasso or Beckmann had they even tried. I also question whether one path is inherently superior to another. Arguably it took great faith in humanity... in the future... to continue to paint images of beauty in the darkest days of World War Two. One might argue that where Picasso or Lasansky drew our attention to the obvious horrors, Matisse and Bonnard continued the paint in the faith that one day this horror would cease and humanity would return to what was important... to what it was fighting for.

I appreciate both sides of the coin and while I recognize that the path of Lasansky or Goya is not what is best for me, I can still appreciate the "beauty" they brought to their images of horror transforming them into something sublime... something not without hope.
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Old 10-02-2011, 11:12 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

SLG . . . what a rich experience.

Lasansky brought a depth through his mixing-media approach that I recall influencing me for a while in high school. I liked his use of newsprint and scratchy lines, and color for effect. I vaguely recall using ink with dry-brush and painting on collages of printed material into college because of what I saw in the print room at U of I. Wish I had just one of those works left from that time in my life . . . . darn. Especially the self-portrait of me crawling into a dark cave that I know I did during my first mid-terms experience!
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Old 10-03-2011, 01:49 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

ArtSaves and Saintluke.... I thank you both for sharing your personal experiences and thoughtful comments about Lasansky with us. Greatly appreciated!
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Old 10-03-2011, 01:49 PM
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Re: September Artist: Mauricio Lasansky

Stlukesguild, I agree, your examples are not “overly depressing”. Nonetheless, they are still depressing. Look at the dominant colors. All browns for one, browns & blacks for another, and browns, blacks and some dull blood-like reds in the third. And look at the expression on all of those faces. They all look like they’re the walking dead and don’t expect any improvement.

The only reason I can agree with you that they are not “overly depressing” is because I can divert my eyes from them at any time. If I had to live somewhere where those hung on the wall and I couldn’t remove them, they could easily then become “overly depressing”.

As I had mentioned, I could be wrong in my assumption that he seemed to be forever depressed. But I didn’t make that assumption lightly. I looked at several dozen of his works, spanning his whole life. From one end to the other, his colors and the somber moods of his models screamed out sadness and a lack of hope for any happiness.

He’s obviously an accomplished artist. With his skills, how hard would it be for him to paint some believable smiles? My impression is that he didn’t because it was psychologically against his nature…throughout his whole life. I'm not questioning the “beauty” of his skills. What his works lack is a beauty of mood. And that I personally found impossible to ignore. Skill is one thing. Mood is another.

To enjoy that mood, I would have to enjoy somberness, depression and lack of hope. I can appreciate such moods. I’ve certainly had them, myself. But I do not enjoy them, and it’s depressing to “relive” them even just in thought.

I’m well aware of them, so please don’t think something like I’m not “facing reality”. I simply don’t need to emphasize them to realize they exist.

Life is way too short even if I live to be a hundred. So how do I want to spend it? Expressing its somber, depressing and sad aspects? No. I prefer to express enjoyment and happiness. That’s what will usually show up in my artwork, however trivial my “art” might be. And after all, enjoyable and happy expressions in themselves have a way of “combating” life’s negativities.
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