“Robert Blackburn: Passages” and the Driskell Center Library

Two weeks ago, the Driskell Center celebrated the opening of the important exhibition Robert Blackburn: Passages which is open to the public in the gallery until Friday, December 19, 2014. The opening reception was a wonderful event, welcoming guest speakers Faith Ringgold and Mel Edwards and allowing the friends of the Driskell Center to admire the works of Robert Blackburn, an artist previously unrecognized for his contribution to American art. The exhibition is wide-ranging and represents not only Robert Blackburn’s work, but also an additional thirteen works by Blackburn’s colleagues—including teachers, friends and students.

As I mentioned in my last post, there is no correspondence in the Driskell Papers between Blackburn and David C. Driskell. Though there is no display as we have traditionally done in the past for exhibitions, the research component of the Driskell Center is represented in an exciting, interactive way. Throughout the run of Robert Blackburn: Passages, visitors will be able to sit and browse through a selection of books on printmaking and Robert Blackburn, presented on a table in the center of the gallery. These books and pamphlets were pulled from the Driskell Center Library which is housed in a room within the Driskell Center office space. The display in the gallery includes two books from the Driskell Center’s Library collection including Printmaking in America: Collaborative Prints and Presses, 1960-1990, Will Barnet / Bob Blackburn: An Artistic Friendship In Relief , and two pamphlets Robert Blackburn: Master Artist – Master Painter, Detwiller Visiting Artist February 27-March 27, 1994 and Campaign for Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop. Interested visitors can leisurely browse through these books and learn more about printmaking and Robert Blackburn as an artist and mentor.

David C. Driskell Center. Catalogues and books available for viewing during the "Robert Blackburn: Passages" exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center. Catalogues and books available for viewing during the “Robert Blackburn: Passages” exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center Gallery. "Robert Blackburn: Passages" exhibition. Fall 2014.

David C. Driskell Center Gallery. “Robert Blackburn: Passages” exhibition. Fall 2014.

The Library’s collection of roughly 4,000 books has been collected over the course of 12 years by the Driskell Center staff and also includes selections from Prof. Driskell’s personal library as well as from Dr. Robert Steele’s personal library. This collection of resources reflects the research needs and purposes of the Driskell Center. The collection of books, exhibition catalogues, journals, and magazines focuses on African American art, American art, artists, and art history, following the mission of the Center. The Driskell Center staff has been using this collection to inform research and publicity for developing its exhibitions, collections, and scholarly events; it is a generally useful resource, which we wanted to share with our visitors as well.

Currently, our staff is working to catalog these books and make their records available and searchable to the public through our PastPerfect website. Books are cataloged under “Library” and can be found through keyword searches in the online search function here. More books are being added to the catalog every week, so continue to check back for updates! The non-circulating Library is open to researchers by appointment during office hours Monday-Friday.

Visiting the Driskell Center to see the Robert Blackburn: Passages exhibition is worth finding the time for, and we hope that you’ll come and learn a little about printmaking and the impact that Blackburn had on the art community!

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

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.