The Directors of Marlborough Gallery are pleased to announce an exhibition of prints by Robert Motherwell opening on Thursday, April 28 and continuing through Saturday, May 28. The exhibition will consist of sixteen screenprints from the Basque Suite and London Series I and II published by Marlborough Gallery in the early 1970s.
An innovative printmaker, Motherwell produced editions throughout the course of his career and utilized a wide variety of materials and techniques, often collaborating with master printers. Motherwell has been described as an artist who was highly responsive to a specific medium’s characteristics, and in a 1984 conversation at the Walker Art Center he stated, “If an artist is really good, he adapts to the particular quality that an etching can do that nothing else can do. Or, a certain other quality that a Bavarian limestone in lithography has that nothing else has, including the best painting in the world. It’s something different . . . an abnormal sensitivity to the quality of a medium.”
Along with the Africa Suite, these three series represent Motherwell’s first projects making full use of the screenprint medium. Printed in collaboration with the Kelpra Studio in London, the Basque Suite and London Series I and II demonstrate the bold, highly saturated areas of color and flat surfaces for which screenprinting is known. The process involves adhering a stencil to a fine mesh screen for support. Ink is then forced through the exposed areas of the screen onto the paper below using a squeegee; any uncut areas of the stencil block the ink and read as blank areas after printing is completed. Motherwell’s screenprints, particularly the Basque Suite, have a remarkable gestural quality and depth that is not easily achieved with this medium.
In his paintings, prints and collages alike, Motherwell is known for exploring variations on a theme. The Basque Suite takes as its starting point the compound nature of the Basque language spoken in northern Spain. Motherwell translated this into imagery by screenprinting multiple layers over a lithographic image he had originally developed in 1967. Each print varies in color and form to create an extraordinarily cohesive and beautiful suite of images.
London Series I and II further explore a theme first developed in Motherwell’s paintings of the late 1960s. These Open paintings were originally inspired by the artist’s observation of a small canvas leaning against a larger canvas in his studio. The London Series prints are striking expressions of the geometry of superimposed rectangles in both vertical and horizontal formats.
Robert Motherwell was born in 1915, and by the time his long and prolific career ended with his death in 1991, he had become a celebrated Abstract Expressionist painter and a central figure in postwar American art. Motherwell’s work is featured in numerous public collections worldwide including the Fundación Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas; Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao, Spain; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, Switzerland; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Tate Britain, London, England; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Sprengel Museum Hannover, Germany.