May 21 - July 31, 1996
The Books of Antonio Frasconi: 50 Years
Curated by Antonio Frasconi
This was the most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted of the book work of celebrated printmaker and graphic artist, Antonio Frasconi. The exhibition provided the first thorough presentation of this aspect of his art and contained examples of all of the nearly seventy books that Mr. Frasconi has designed and illustrated.
Antonio Frasconi was born in Buenos Aires of Italian parents in 1919. In 1945, upon being awarded a scholarship from the Art Students League of New York, he emigrated to the United States. Since then he has enjoyed a long, active career as a visual artist. His work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad and is represented in many private and public collections.
Over a period of fifty years, Mr. Frasconi, in addition to his well-known work as a printmaker, has designed and illustrated close to one hundred books, including limited editions, trade books, one-of-a-kind artists' books, and children's books. He has illustrated works by Pablo Neruda, Federico Garcia-Lorca, Bertolt Brecht, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and, most recently, W.S. Merwin and Langston Hughes (in progress). Since 1980, Mr. Frasconi has been Professor of Visual Arts at SUNY, Purchase, where he continues to teach design and printmaking.
Throughout his career Mr. Frasconi has dedicated his work, in his own words, to "both the heaven and hell of our existence." Along with lush evocations of the places he loves (Venice, Tuscany, Monterey), the homages to the poets he admires, and playful interpretations of children's stories, we find the powerful and sometimes disturbing volumes testifying to his life-long concern with social issues, the searing witnesses of racial hatred and political injustice in the 20th century. Frasconi's books on the Vietnam War and the "disappeared" of Latin America have become classic demonstrations of the capacity of art to address man's inhumanity to man.
The artist's entire oeuvre reveals an innate understanding of his chosen medium -- in this case, of the possibilities for expression underlying the form of the book, from the subtle prelude of the cover and title page to the dramatic sequences of double-page spreads, produced with a strong and sure, yet sensitive hand. Mr. Frasconi's books are at once visually, intellectually, and emotionally engaging. His printmaking style is informed by a sensuous feeling for line and color and an expressive breadth capable of eliciting a wide range of responses, from delight to despair.
Documenting the exhibition is a catalogue of Mr. Frasconi's book work, which includes detailed descriptions of each of the artist's 94 publications.