Robert Blackburn and The Printmaking Workshop

Summertime at the Driskell Center, though always busy, seems to have something missing due to the empty gallery space. I always look forward to the fall semester when I get to walk past the gallery every day and see the wonderful works on display. As works on loan for the exhibition Robert Blackburn: Passages have arrived to the Center, and our intrepid staff begins hanging them, it inspired me to take a look into the Driskell Papers and see what the collection holds about Robert Blackburn and The Printmaking Workshop which he founded in New York City 1948.

Robert Blackburn was an artist in his own right, and this exhibition is the first comprehensive retrospective of his work. The exhibition will feature 100 works by Blackburn, as well as  a few additional works by his colleagues–teachers, artists, and friends.  After doing additional reading about Blackburn, it is very clear that Blackburn influenced, worked with, and helped many artists, among them Romare Bearden, Grace Hartigan, and Robert Rauschenberg.

Though there is no correspondence in the Driskell Papers between Prof. Driskell and Blackburn, Prof. Driskell did keep informational material about The Printmaking Workshop and about Blackburn himself. I found some interesting documentation including a brochure that Prof. Driskell kept about this unique and groundbreaking space created by Robert Blackburn. The brochure has some great facts and outstanding photographs (taken by Ryo Watanabe and Eric Maristany) that showcase The Printmaking Workshop and the great work that Robert Blackburn did for the art community.

Front of pamphlet on The Printmaking Workshop (undated): Box 4, Folder 15. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Front of pamphlet on The Printmaking Workshop (undated): Box 4, Folder 15. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Inside of pamphlet on The Printmaking Workshop (undated): Box 4, Folder 15. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Inside of pamphlet on The Printmaking Workshop (undated): Box 4, Folder 15. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archives.

The exhibition Robert Blackburn: Passages opens with a reception on September 18, 2015 from 5-7PM; the exhibition is open until December 19. The Driskell Center also produced a 144 page catalogue for this show which will be available for sale at the Center as well as on-line beginning September 18, 2014 (please check back here to purchase online after that date).  For more about the exhibition, please visit our website.  If you are interested in learning more about Blackburn, the Library of Congress holds the records of The Printmaking Workshop in their manuscript collection.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Artists and Individuals: Highlighting David C. Driskell’s Correspondence with Artists

This post is written by Molly Campbell, a Graduate Assistant at the David C. Driskell Center Archive. Molly is a first-year student at the University of Maryland’s iSchool, focusing on Archives, Records, and Information Management and has been at the Driskell Center since June 2013. Molly recently finished processing the largest series within the Driskell Papers Series 5: Artists and Individuals. The post below highlights some of her experience and the interesting objects she found in the series.

Recently I finished processing Series 5: Artists and Individuals, which is one of the largest series in the David C. Driskell Papers. It is primarily comprised of correspondence David C. Driskell shared with fellow artists, colleagues, clients, students, and friends, but also contains writings, exhibition catalogues, photographs, and ephemera related to these individuals.  I found this series to be particularly exciting because it chronicles the many relationships Prof. Driskell cultivated over the span of his career as an artist, curator, and academic. Moreover, these records evidence his emergence as one of the leading authorities on African American Art. As a whole, this series is a valuable resource which provides insight into Prof. Driskell’s personal and professional life, and furthermore demonstrates his commitment to the advancement of African American art into the mainstream culture.

When Archivist Stephanie Maxwell first asked me to write this blog post I was excited to share my experiences working on this series, but was unsure how to thoughtfully convey the significance of Artists and Individuals. I decided that the best way to highlight this series is by choosing a single record and reflecting on its evidentiary value as a historical document. After some searching I choose a letter that Prof. Driskell wrote to the artist Claude Clark (b. 1915 – d. 2001) in July 1969. Clark is also represented in the exhibition Narratives of African American Art and Identity and his work in that exhibition can be seen here. I selected this correspondence because it offers a glimpse into the relationship Prof. Driskell and Clark cultivated first as colleagues and later as friends. In the letter Prof. Driskell thanks Clark for hosting him while he visited California and for showing him the art scene in the Bay area. Prof. Driskell obviously enjoyed spending time with Clark and respected him as an artist and friend—an aspect that an archival researcher would find significant and revealing.

Letter from David C. Driskell to Claude Clark (July 14, 1969): Box 7, Folder 11. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Letter from David C. Driskell to Claude Clark (July 14, 1969): Box 7, Folder 11. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

There are a number of other important points in this letter that reveal interesting facets of Prof. Driskell’s life. For example, Prof. Driskell mentions that he had just received a letter from the artist, and mutual friend, Jacob Lawrence who was teaching at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine that summer. This detail is remarkable because it further highlights the connections that tied these significant individuals together and indicates the ways in which they may have influenced one another.  I found this passage especially poignant because camaraderie is a persistent theme throughout this series as many of the correspondences show how artists represented in this series supported each other as colleagues and friends. Furthermore, the series as a whole reveals the milieu in which artists—particularly those of minority background—lived and worked in. All together the series documents the growth of African American art in the 20th century through the experiences and words of Prof. Driskell.

I thoroughly enjoyed processing Artists and Individuals and am thrilled that the series is now open for research use. I hope that you will come visit the Archive and take advantage of its valuable resources. I have recently begun arranging Series 2: Educator, which focuses on Prof. Driskell’s role as an educator and mentor.  I look forward to writing about that series on the blog when I finish in the following months!

Major Progress in Driskell Papers

Despite the snow and wintry weather we’ve had in Maryland over the past few weeks, the David C. Driskell Center Archives staff has been hard at work. We have a lot of goals for this Spring semester, and we recently accomplished two of those goals as our Graduate Assistants Nick Beste and Molly Campbell completed processing Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora and Series 5: Artists and Individuals, respectively. These series are two of the larger ones in the David C. Driskell Papers, and Nick and Molly have worked tirelessly to organize, describe, and preserve the materials that fall into those series. I am happy to report that all the records for the materials in these series are available through our PastPerfect database and are accompanied by descriptions of the series.

Graduate Assistant Nick Beste has been processing the African American Art and Diaspora series (or AAAD as it’s referred to here in the Archives) which pulls together the various materials that Prof. Driskell collected over six decades that helped to inform his own research and lessons as well as the materials for events and exhibitions he attended and/or was invited to. I’ve written about part of this series here, focusing on the Ephemera sub-series, but this series is comprised of a lot more than just ephemera.  As a group, these materials are a great resource for studying the evolution of art and art-related events over the 60 years that Prof. Driskell collected the items. AAAD is split into four sub-series which pull together materials by their function or format:

This series as a whole gives the researcher a first-hand look at what Prof. Driskell found interesting or helpful in his studies and teachings and in his personal life.  It adds a layer of connection to the Driskell Papers.

Our Graduate Assistant Molly Campbell has been working on arranging and describing the Artists and Individuals series since she started working at the Driskell Center Archives. Easily the most complicated and difficult series to process, she’s done a wonderful job making the correspondence that Prof. Driskell has had with various artists, scholars, and individuals in the art community accessible and easy to find. I’ve written about some of the wonderful things to be found in the Artists and Individuals series here, here, here, and here, and in the next few weeks Molly will be writing a post about her experience processing the series and some of the interesting things she found while she was doing it.

As Spring Break approaches, we are in good shape to achieve our goals for this semester. Molly has started arranging Series 2: Educator, which concentrates on Prof. Driskell’s role as a professor, and I have begun to enter information into PastPerfect about the records we have on his role as a curator from Series 3: Exhibitions.  And as these paper materials start coming together, we’ll begin looking at our Audio/Visual and Photographic Materials!

Thank you for staying tuned to the news on the David C. Driskell Papers—it’s a very exciting time here, and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing many of you as you use the collection!

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

New Archives Display for “Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White”

Tonight, the David C. Driskell Center will be opening its newest exhibition, Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White which is a collection of the works by the artist Charles White from the Arthur Primas Collection and the David C. Driskell Center Collection. The exhibition features drawings, prints, and paintings that represent the work of one of the most outstanding American artists.

I really enjoy when we have new exhibitions in the Center because it means I get to peruse the archive to find documents for our archives display. With our last exhibition Alison Saar: Still… we focused on David C. Driskell’s relationship with various sculptors since that was the first exhibition featuring only sculptures that we had in our gallery. For this exhibition, it was exciting to focus on only one artist, Charles White, who had a long, steadfast relationship with David C. Driskell.

Within the Driskell Papers’ Artist and Individuals series are several folders dedicated to Charles White. Prof. Driskell and Charles White exchanged letters, which Prof. Driskell kept with several articles and exhibition catalogues about White’s work. I’ve pulled together some of the highlights from these folders and placed them in a display case placed underneath White’s work “I Have a Dream.” The photographs that are included in the display show White working on this piece. Below is a sneak peek of what I found and placed in the display case.

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Archives display for “Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White.” January 2014. Courtesy of the David C. Driskell Center.

  1. Photographs of Charles White in his studio, c. 1975. These photos were taken while White was being interviewed for the film that accompanied Two Centuries of Black American Art, 1750-1950. Prof. Driskell visited Charles White in his Pasadena, CA studio to conduct White’s interview which appears at the end of the Two Centuries film, which we also have playing on a television in the gallery. The photographs capture White working on his piece “I Have a Dream” in great detail which highlights his technique and style.
  2. Letter from David C. Driskell to Charles White, December 29, 1977. This letter is written by Prof. Driskell to White and I think it’s so interesting that I’m including an image of it below:

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    Letter from David C. Driskell to Charles White (November 29, 1977): Box 44, Folder 25. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

  3. Funeral Program for Charles White, November 4, 1979. White passed away on October 3, 1979 at the age of 61. To celebrate his life, there was a “Memorial Jubilee” which featured performances by choirs, a retrospective on his life, and remarks by many people including Betye Saar and Sidney Poitier.
  4. Charles White: Drawings, an exhibition catalogue, 1967. Among the catalogs Driskell kept in his papers are several that feature Charles White in his collection. This particular catalogue is from an exhibition that traveled to Howard University, Morgan State University, and Fisk University in 1967 and has a foreword and introduction written by James A. Porter who was one of Prof. Driskell’s mentors at Howard University.

Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten – The Art of Charles White is an exhibition that you will not want to miss! Please join us tonight, January 30, 2014 from 5-7PM for our opening reception (no RSVP required) or come to see the exhibition before it closes on May 23, 2014. I hope that you will have a chance to join us either tonight at the opening reception or throughout the course of the exhibition as we celebrate the exquisite work of Charles White. You can learn more about Charles White and the exhibition here. We look forward to seeing you!

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

Reflections on 2013 in the David C. Driskell Center Archives

December is a time when I like to reflect on the past year, so I have been thinking about what we have accomplished, what still needs to be done, and how we can improve our work in the David C. Driskell Archive.  I am very happy with the way things have been progressing with the David C. Driskell Papers: our Graduate Assistants Nick Beste and Molly Campbell have worked diligently to process several series within the Papers, we have streamlined our processes as we continue on with our project, and we have achieved many of our goals for 2013. One of the accomplishments I am most proud of is the online availability of records for several of our series and sub-series, including:

Series 3: Exhibitions, Sub-Series 4: Personal Art Collection
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 2: Ephemera
Series 4: African American Art and Diaspora, Sub-Series 3: Exhibition Catalogues
Series 5: Artists and Individuals (which will be completely processed by the end of January 2014)
Series 8: Organizations

I am very excited to see what 2014 will bring and I hope that you continue to follow us here on the blog as we update you on new and exciting finds, alert you to the newest materials available for research, and highlight interesting aspects of David C. Driskell’s life.

As the year comes to a close, I hope that you’ll look back at some of our posts. Some of the ones that really put the David C. Driskell Papers into perspective for me have been “‘An Idyll of the Deep South’ and David C. Driskell’s Discussion with Aaron Douglas,” “David C. Driskell as Mentor and Mentee,” and “Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program.”

As we move forward with processing the David C. Driskell Papers, our staff will work to provide even more posts and updates that inform and enlighten. We would love to hear from you about what you have found interesting or what you’d like to see in the coming year, so please feel free to leave comments on this post!

The David C. Driskell Archives staff wishes you and yours a happy, healthy, and enjoyable holiday season! We look forward to continuing to blog after the holidays in January 2014.

PS: Stay tuned to the David C. Driskell Center website to hear about our upcoming exhibition Charles White – Heroes: Gone But Not Forgotten, which opens on January 30, 2014. The Archives will be putting together a display similar to what we produced for the Alison Saar: Still exhibition, so we’ll post about that soon!

PPS: The David C. Driskell Center will be closed from December 24, 2013 through January 1, 2014. The Center will reopen on January 2, 2014 at 9:00AM.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

“Narratives” in the Archive

Last week, I finished processing Series 3: Exhibitions, Sub-Series 4: Personal Art Collection into our PastPerfect database. This sub-series pulls together records of exhibitions which focus on David Driskell’s private art collection.

The Personal Art Collection sub-series houses materials relating to the exhibition Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection which was curated by The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland in 1998 and traveled to various institutions including the High Museum of Art and The Newark Museum through 2004. The Narratives exhibition showcased highlights of Prof. Driskell’s extensive art collection. Since Prof. Driskell is a knowledgeable and discerning art collector, Narratives was an extraordinary exhibition that pulled together works by some of the most influential and well-known African American artists from Edward Mitchell Bannister to Elizabeth Catlett to Romare Bearden and others. Though Prof. Driskell did not curate the exhibition, he was involved with planning, informal editing, and consulting on the exhibition and the catalogue. His records on Narratives include correspondence with various employees at The Art Gallery and museum directors from the institutions the exhibition traveled to, ephemera produced by The Art Gallery and traveling institutions, project plans and timelines, and information on the artwork displayed.

Ephemera from "Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection" (1998-1999): Box 4, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions (Personal Art Collection), David C. Driskell Archive.

Ephemera from “Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection” (1998-1999): Box 4, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Exhibitions (Personal Art Collection), David C. Driskell Archive.

Some of the most interesting records in this sub-series are the curatorial files, many of which include articles and research, handwritten notes by the gallery staff and contributors to the exhibition catalogue, and edits to the catalogue entries by Prof. Driskell himself. The most interesting aspect of these files is the development of the exhibition, the various events that surrounded it, and the reactions of the public and press. The sub-series is interesting and informative because it is a great example of how Prof. Driskell has promoted the study and appreciation of African American Art. You can see the online version of the exhibition here and can purchase the exhibition catalogue through the David C. Driskell Center here.

In more news about our processing progress news, Nick continues to work on the Ephemera sub-series, Molly is getting closer to completing the processing for Artists and Individuals, and I am starting to tackle the sub-series documenting the many exhibitions Prof. Driskell curated.  The Archives staff is looking forward to working on the objects that we have left and telling you more about them as we find more interesting and unique things.

From the entire staff at the David C. Driskell Archives, we are wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving!

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.

The Lasting Effect of David C. Driskell

                In my last post, I talked about David C. Driskell’s relationship with his mentor James A. Porter, who played a big role in Prof. Driskell’s life, both personally and professionally. While that post focused on Prof. Driskell’s role as a mentee, some of his students, colleagues, and artists remember him as a mentor.

One former student with whom Prof. Driskell maintained a relationship is Jefferson Pinder. Pinder received his MFA in Painting and Mixed Media from the Department of Art at the University of Maryland in 2003 From 1999-2003, Pinder was Prof. Driskell’s assistant and was also the first Fellowship Recipient in Art from the David C. Driskell Center in 2002-2003. Pinder was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, from 2005-2011 and is currently an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Pinder is an active artist who has artwork at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Studio Museum of Harlem, High Museum of Art, and other galleries and museums.

In 1995, Pinder sent a postcard to Prof. Driskell from New Orleans telling him about his travels and how he had visited sites that were discussed in a class that Prof. Driskell taught. 

Below is the postcard from Jefferson Pinder.

Postcard from Jefferson Pinder (1995): Box 36, Folder T-139-27. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Postcard from Jefferson Pinder (1995): Box 36, Folder T-139-27. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Later, in a Digital Video project that he created in 2009 entitled Lazarus, Pinder is wearing a suit previously owned by Prof. Driskell’s father which Prof. Driskell featured in his 1987 work I Have Always Been an Outsider. This is just an example of the ways in which Prof. Driskell’s impression as a mentor continued to influence his students. It is this effort to remember the faces, to correspond with former students, and to encourage others that makes Prof. Driskell such a unique and beloved man.

This past weekend, I was reminded of that when I participated in the symposium “American Art in Dialogue with Africa and its Diaspora” which was hosted by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Prof. Driskell lectured about the influence that African culture and ideas have had on his art throughout his career. Seeing Prof. Driskell speak was a great experience. It reminded me how interesting and multifaceted his career has been and gave life to the records that we are preserving in the David C. Driskell Archive.  

                If you have any memories of Prof. David Driskell acting as a mentor or counselor we would love to hear from you. Please comment on this post with your own memories.

This post was written by Stephanie Maxwell, Archivist at the David C. Driskell Center Archives.