White on Black: The Modernist Prints of Paul Landacre at Pasadena Museum of California Art

White on Black: The Modernist Prints of Paul Landacre, Paul Landacre’s wood engravings from 1930s, which proved to be the most prolific period of his career. While most artists who created black and white art used black lines on a white background, Landacre became renowned for doing the opposite: his engravings are white lines on a black background. In essence, he thought backwards, reversing the drawing process when making the initial designs and again while engraving the wood blocks.
Landacre’s approached the printing process with meticulous care: he carefully selected the wood, sanded and polished it and then skillfully engraved it. Using the finest ink and paper available, he hand inked the blocks and then printed each image one at a time on a cast iron hand press manufactured in the 1800’s. This expert craftsmanship and Landacre’s intuitive grasp of how to use light and dark, made it possible for him to create the detailed and highly sensitive line work which gave his prints a wide variation of tonal values, ranging from pure white to extremely deep black.
Using an approach that was at the heart of the progressive graphic art movement, Landacre’s work was considered abstract, with a main image based on recognizable subject matter, surrounded by non-objective shapes and patterns. In American and European art circles he was known as a Progressive Modernist, yet his fine art prints were appreciated and praised by even the most conservative art critics.
All of his woodblock prints were engraved and printed at his home on “The Hill” in the Edendale district (now Echo Park) of Los Angeles, and many of his prints feature the neighborhood around his house. Many of the prints in the exhibition are from the collection of Hollywood luminary Delmer Daves who was a huge champion of Landacre’s work. When the artist faced financial problems during the Great Depression, Daves, renowned bookseller and gallery-owner Jake Zietlen, who gave Landacre his first exhibition, and book designer Ward Richie formed the Landacre Association, to which each of Landacre’s collectors would contribute $100. These contributions supported Landacre’s printmaking and the collectors, in turn, would receive one of the editions of each of his prints. As Daves always received the first of each series, many of the engravings now on view in the exhibition are numbered “1.”
During this time, Landacre became recognized as one the most important printmakers of the 20th Century, emerging as one of the leaders in an American revival of fine art wood engraving. After the 1930s, he devoted less time to his own practice, choosing to focus his energies on making prints for books and on teaching at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles where he worked until he passed away in 1963.
The exhibition features close to twenty-five prints and is curated by Gordon McClelland, an art historian and seminal figure in advancing the field of research in California Style watercolors.
Wednesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 5:00 pm.
The Museum is closed July 4th, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
$7 for Adults, $5 for Seniors (65+) and Students with valid ID; free to PMCA Members and children under 12. Access for people with disabilities is provided.
The Museum is located at 490 East Union Street. From the 210 Freeway, take the Lake Avenue exit. Go south and take a right on Union Street. From the 110 Freeway/Downtown Los Angeles, follow the freeway until its end, then take Arroyo Parkway and turn right at Colorado, then left at Oakland to get to Union Street. Parking is available at the Museum.
For information, the please call 626-568-3665 or visit the website: www.pmcaonline.org
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December 26, 2012

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