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William Beckman: Drawings, 1967-2013
May 17 - September 7 , 2014
As one of the leading realist artists working in the United States, William Beckman is celebrated for the intimacy and emotional power of his figurative drawings. In the first major retrospective of his works on paper, this exhibition explores Beckman's primary subject matter: the individual. The nearly fifty portraits run the gamut of captivating expressions from self-possession, to rebellion, and vulnerability. This exhibition is curated from both private and public collections and reflects the Columbus Museum's commitment to promoting, exhibiting, and collecting American drawings. (right: William Beckman, Self Portrait with Glasses (Detail), 1983, Charcoal. Private Collection, New York (catalogue cover)
Beckman's inspiration comes from diverse sources, which include northern European painting, the writings of Russian author Nikolai Gogol, and the farm on which he grew up in western Minnesota. Throughout his career as an artist he has examined human relationships -- the quiet of solitude, the intimacy of marriage, and the complexity of gender issues. Unlikely as it may seem at first, these issues are carried over in the recent survey of rodeo bulls. Often working in series and experimenting with scale, Beckman's process is at the fore, producing compelling images that engage the viewer directly.
Accompanying the exhibition is a 112-page, full-color catalogue of Beckman's work, as well as archival photos from his childhood and college days. The catalogue, (published by D Giles, Ltd., London), William Beckman: Drawings, 1967-2013 includes an interview with the artist as well as an exploratory essay by noted scholar Carter Ratcliff.
William Beckman: Drawings, 1967-2013 is on display at the Columbus Museum May 18 through September 7 , 2014. The exhibition will travel to the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock in late 2014 after it closes in Columbus.
Excerpt from interview in the exhibition catalogue
TB indicates Tom Butler, Director, The Columbus Museum. WB is William Beckman.
TB: Bill, although we had a similar discussion in your studio in 2010, let's focus more on the project at hand now that we are moving towards the exhibition which opens in Columbus in May 2014. I remember clearly when I first saw one of your monumental drawings -- Woman-Man (1988) -- it was included in the Large Drawings traveling exhibition that Townsend Wolfe organized from the Arkansas Art Center's (AAC's) great collection of drawings in 1996. We were one of the host institutions on the tour and even though I knew it was part of the exhibit from the initial checklist, I still was unprepared for the scale of the Woman-Man drawing when it was unpacked. What were your thoughts on incorporating such a large scale for these drawings?
TB: This seems as good a time as any to ask about your technique. Do you use a camera? Do you do smaller studies first before you start drawing on these very large, and very expensive, pieces of paper?
TB: Bill, you have talked about the time while in Minneapolis that you realized that you were destined to be an artist and thus began to focus on your training and your discipline to make art. Would you mind telling me that story again?
TB: In general, how do you work in the studio? What is your progression? Drawings first? Paintings? Although this exhibition is about drawings and spans the length of your career to date, just where do they fit into your studio hierarchy?
(above: William Beckman, Woman-Man, ca. 1988, charcoal. Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas)
(above: William Beckman, Self-Portrait in Studio, ca. 1984, charcoal. Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gift of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Hassam-Speicher Purchase Fund M1985.100)
(above: William Beckman, Bull Series #8 (Cody), ca. 2010, Charcoal. Promised Gift. Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA)
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