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.

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.

Artists and Individuals: Romare Bearden’s Funeral Program

David C. Driskell has worn many hats throughout his life: scholar, artist, collector, appraiser, curator, educator, and friend and advisor to many artists and scholars. As the Archives staff processes the David C. Driskell Papers, we are using those roles to guide the arrangement of the collection to make them easily accessible and logical for researchers.  The materials are being organized into “series,” dividing our large collection into smaller, more manageable groups that are formed based on how they were used by the creator or by their format type.

The most exciting and revealing series that the Archives staff is currently processing is called “Artists and Individuals” which is rife with correspondences between Prof. Driskell and such artists as Elizabeth Catlett, Claude Clark, and Aaron Douglas. This series provides a first-hand look at the African American artist community and relationships with many artists and scholars as well as the many newspaper clippings and catalogues he kept about them. Roughly 25% of this very large series has been processed and more is processed every day by our Graduate Assistant Molly Campbell.

What I love most about the material in “Artists and Individuals” is the communication between artists about what art means, what they like and don’t like in other artists’ work, and in this particular collection, what it is like to be an African American artist. One of the many things that makes this collection so unique is Prof. Driskell’s obvious dedication to documenting the entire scope of African American art and its importance, community, and progress throughout the 20th century.

One of the many interesting discoveries in the “Artists and Individuals” series thus far is in one of the many files on Romare Bearden that David C. Driskell kept. This should come as no surprise as Bearden was one of the most well-known African American artists and Driskell found much to admire in Bearden.  The two met briefly when Prof. Driskell was a student in the mid-1950s. The artists reconnected later in the mid-1960s and after that the two artists sparked a friendship that lasted until Bearden’s death in 1988.

Prof. Driskell’s files on Romare Bearden include a wonderful transcript of an interview that Prof. Driskell gave on his relationship with Bearden in 2001, articles both by and about Bearden, many exhibition catalogues, and correspondences between the two artists.  Among all of these things is also a program from Bearden’s funeral in 1988. Though a seemingly normal document, when I flipped the pamphlet over, I found 18 signatures of African American artists and scholars including Camille Billops, Ben Jones, Steven L. Jones, Betty Blayton, and Prof. Driskell himself, possibly collected by Prof. Driskell at the funeral.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Back panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

Front panel of “A Celebration of the Life of Romare H. Bearden,” signed funeral pamphlet (April 6, 1988): Box 3, Folder 6. David C. Driskell Papers: Artists and Individuals, David C. Driskell Center Archive.

This document is an excellent example of the connection Professor Driskell maintained with African American artists throughout his life. Even in the midst of a sad event, Prof. Driskell continues to be a collector at heart.

To see what other interesting files we’ve processed in the “Artists and Individuals” series, visit our PastPerfect database! We upload new records each week, so continue to check back and see what we’ve been processing!

PS—We’ve added some features to the blog to allow you to easily follow along with us as we post. If you go to the main Archives Blog page, look on the right-hand side of the page and you’ll see links that let you follow us via RSS feed or by email.

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