Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Antonio Frasconi: 1919-2013


I just learned of the death on January 8th of Antonio Frasconi, the great printmaker from Uruguay who lived and worked most of his life in the USA. Printmaking is such a minority sport in the art world that his passing will go largely unnoticed, compared to the death of a Basquiat or a Warhol. But for those who are printmakers or those who appreciate the medium, Frasconi is known as one of the undisputed masters of the last 100 years, possibly one of the greatest exponents ever of the woodcut medium.


He came directly from the Latin American tradition of the black and white block print, a medium chosen particularly by Mexican political artists for its easy readability, its directness, and its eye-catching boldness of design. Frasconi's own style also has that kind of angular, spiky-edged quality that we think of as part of 1950s design, too.



I first became aware of Frasconi's work when I began to study printmaking in the mid-1990s. A book of his prints (showing some of his many book illustrations) was lying around the studio, and I spent some time discussing the style and technique with my teacher, who had met Frasconi. At the time, I was going through all the complicated processes to do with intaglio (etching), but a few years later I began making block prints, and it was absolutely inspired by seeing Frasconi's quirky, beautiful prints of animals and faces. Nothing I've done comes close to matching his achievement, but just seeing these images that I've clipped from the internet makes me realise that one can learn so much from Frasconi's art about the value of simplicity, contrast, and repetition.

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