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Warrington Colescott, Who Etched With a Satirical Edge, Dies at 97

Warrington Colescott, an innovative printmaker who deftly navigated the intersection between tragedy and high comedy with biting etchings about civil rights, history, politics and the Internal Revenue Service (which audited him), died on Sept. 10 at his farmhouse in Hollandale, Wis., southwest of Madison. He was 97

His son, Julian, confirmed the death.

“Etching quickens the blood, lights up the eye, affects the satirical mind in the same way that a low-cut neckline affects Dracula,” Mr. Colescott wrote in a catalog for an exhibition of his prints at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 1996.

A Fulbright and Guggenheim fellow whose prints are widely collected, Mr. Colescott employed a figurative style that tinkered liberally with reality in wildly colorful, cartoonish and sometimes disquieting ways.

“In Birmingham Jail” (1963) was inspired by the bloody demonstrations in the Deep South against segregation in the 1950s and early ’60s. Its two panels show rows of darkened jail cells where protesters are beaten by grotesquely drawn police officers — images that Mr. Colescott interspersed with pictures of a girls choir and Bart Starr, the Alabama-born quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, his favorite team.

“Golly!” he says. “A big mother.” Beneath the jet, a whale is harpooned in the middle of an oil spill

 

“He was a dyed-in-the-wool Democratic progressive,” Mary Weaver Chapin, who curated a retrospective exhibition of Mr. Colescott’s prints at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010, said in a telephone interview. “And this was really an attack on Bush’s environmental policy.”

Mr. Colescott sometimes created series of etchings, like one about Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, another about the bank robber John Dillinger and a third, “A History of Printmaking,” that reimagines historical moments in graphic arts involving Benjamin Franklin and artists like Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer and Robert Rauschenberg.

In the riot of bellicose images that compose “Goya Studies War” (1976), Mr. Colescott shows Goya — the Spanish master who created a series of prints in the early 19th century called “The Disasters of War” — talking to a general and taking notes while a corpse is removed on a cart.

“What makes Colescott’s work so appealing is its mix of erudition and irreverence,” the critic Jennifer A. Smith wrote in 2010 in Isthmus, an alternative weekly newspaper in Madison, about an exhibition of his work that year at the city’s Grace Chosy Gallery. His prints, she added, were in the tradition of artists and social critics like William Hogarth and Honoré Daumier.

Warrington Wickham Colescott Jr. was born on March 7, 1921, in Oakland, Calif., to Creole parents from Louisiana. His mother, Lydia (Hutton) Colescott, was a schoolteacher who played the piano; his father, Warrington Sr., was a porter on the Southern Pacific Railroad and played the violin.

 
Mr. Colescott’s 1973 print, “Prime-Time Histories: George Washington Meets Betsy Ross, but Too Late.”Creditvia Michael Tropea/Milwaukee Art Museum
 
Mr. Colescott’s 1973 print, “Prime-Time Histories: George Washington Meets Betsy Ross, but Too Late.”Creditvia Michael Tropea/Milwaukee Art Museum

As a boy, Warrington was drawn to artifacts that his father brought him from fighting in France during World War I — like a gas mask and a dented helmet — and used them to play war with his friends and scare people on Halloween. He drew pictures, too, and was influenced by newspaper comic strips.

“My drawing style has, in many ways, remained constant since childhood,” he said in the book “Progressive Printmakers: Wisconsin Artists and the Print Renaissance” (1999), which he wrote with Arthur Hove. “The marks of the pen or brush spill out with a kind of attack. Ultimately, they all fuse together and become a narration.”

He drew cartoons for his high school newspaper and for the campus newspaper and humor magazine at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in art. One of his cartoon creations was adapted into Berkeley’s mascot, Oski the Bear.

In 1942, Mr. Colescott was drafted into the Army and served in Okinawa late in World War II and in Korea as part of the postwar occupation. On his return, he got his master’s in art from Berkeley and began teaching drawing and painting at Long Beach Community College in California. He joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1949, where he taught painting and printmaking for 37 years.

Mr. Colescott started out concentrating on painting and silk screens but became fascinated with etching after a year of study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London in the 1950s under his Fulbright grant. His initial etchings were abstract, but they soon evolved to a more figurative look that suited the events and figures he would illustrate.

 

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Revisiting Artist Richard Bernstein’s Epochal Legacy

In this new book from Rizzoli, the famed illustrator for Interview magazine and long-time Grace Jones collaborator takes the spotlight.

www.lofficielusa.com

 

 

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conservation framing diagram

How to Frame a Piece of Art

How to Frame a Print

Frames are used to enhance a work of art aesthetically, as well as to protect it from dirt, dust and handling.

Choose what pleases you but listen to the advice of professionals. The framed artwork will become part of your everyday environment, so be sure to choose frames and mats that you will enjoy.

Don’t frame the art to match a room in your house. Choose picture frames and mats that will enhance the work of art

conservation framing

  • Archival: Archival framing means that all the materials involved in the process are completely acid-free. Your artwork is frimagesframed to last.
  • Double Mat: When mats are layered in a picture frame, the top mat forms the main border and the bottom mat is revealed slightly just around the image. Double mats are great to bring out an accent color in the piece and to give an extra sense of depth.
  • Float on Frame: A stretched canvas painting that is attached on top of a moulding that has a flat back, but deep enough on the sides to contain the depth of the stretched canvas. The canvas is attached so that there is a natural gap between the art and the moulding. This gap creates a shadow between the art and moulding which gives depth to the completed piece. The gap generally ranges from 1/8″ to 3/4″.
  • Float between Glass: Displaying art between two pieces of glass or acrylic. The margin between the art and outside of the glazing is clear so that the color and texture around the art becomes the wall color and texture.
  • Float on Mat: Displaying art on top of a mat with the art edges showing. The artwork is sometimes elevated from 1/8″ to 3/8″ to create added depth. If the art has a deckled edge, showing all of the edges of the art makes the art appear like it was just completed by the artist.

UV Protection: Techniques for shielding art from exposure to ultraviolet light. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or florescent lights can discolor and damage art. There are glasses, acrylics, and laminates that can be used to protect art from a high percentage of UV light.

Limited Edition Prints can be matted to show the edition and artist signature. A fillet can be used to bring definition and contrast between the mat and print. The Certificate of Authenticity should be pocketed on the back of the finished piece.

Posters are generally open edition prints with a white border and text. Posters can be framed in a variety of ways. One way is to remove the white border, select a double mat and appropriately colored thin, metal frame.

Original Oil and acrylic canvas paintings can be further enhanced with the proper framing. Glazing is not needed for preservation. With larger pieces, you can select a wider moulding or use streamline float framing for a clean, contemporary look.

Original Prints need special care for conservation. Lithographs, serigraphs, etchings, and woodblock prints require archival framing. Acid-free mats, linen tapes, and backing are recommended. Museum glass provides 99% UV protection while minimizing glare and distortion.

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