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Work of Gwen Knight and Martin Blank featured at Museum of Northwest Art


The paintings of Gwen Knight, an artist whose work spans a remarkable 60-year period of American cultural history will be featured in Never Late for Heaven. The Art of Gwen Knight at the Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner. The exhibition, on view from October 11 through January 4, 2004, describes an irrepressible, lifelong drive to make art outside the confines of a conventional career and, instead, as an inexorable part of life itself.

Knight, who turned 90 this year (2003), has continuously explored portraiture, the figure, and details of domestic life as subject matter for her work. She and her late husband, painter Jacob Lawrence, were surrounded by a rich mélange of academic and artistic activity throughout their life together, beginning in the cultural renaissance of Harlem and, since 1971, in Seattle where Lawrence taught at the University of Washington. (left: Gwen Knight, Portrait of the Artist, 1991, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, MoNA promised gift, Marshall and Helen Hatch Collection)

Knight is the recipient of a number of distinguished awards including the National Honor Award presented by the Women's Caucus for Art, the Cornish College of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in Seattle, the Centennial Award of Merit from Arizona State University, the Pioneer Award from the 12th annual Artist's Salute to Black History Month in Los Angeles, and honorary doctorate degrees from both Seattle University and the University of Minnesota. Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight was organized by Tacoma Art Museum.

The exhibition and catalog have been made possible by support from Altria Group, Inc. and Safeco. Funding from the Washington State Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts helped make its exhibition at MoNA possible.

Also on exhibit in the Benaroya Glass Gallery at MoNA from October 11 - January 4, 2004 is sculpture by Martin Blank. His hot, sculpted abstract glass forms have evolved from basic experimentation with shape and motion to a complex and sensual interaction with textures, shapes and energy. Subtle, powerful and fluid, Martin Blank's work has brought him national notice. (right: Martin Blank, Dipping from the Well, 2001, 62 x 42 x 24 inches, Photo: Douglas Schaible, courtesy of William Traver Gallery, Seattle, WA)

Martin Blank's current abstract series uncovers his personal evolution from the basic study of form and motion to a sensual dance with textures, shapes and energy that reflect the subtle yet powerful resonance of human landscapes.

This exploration reveals with luminous simplicity a balance of grace and strength. It uncovers the organic ability of glass to create intent along side calm, reflecting the sinuous nature of warmth and light.

This body of work finds its inspiration in and is transformed by the lobby of Chicago's prestigious LaSalle building. Late last year H. Michael Kurzman commissioned Blank to sculpt a 60-foot reclining nude to define that space. Punctuated by five islands of glass, the sculpture allows for an ethereal visual tour of the feminine form, connecting each section through the flow of negative space, color and illumination. As Blank mapped out the creation of this groundbreaking work, an entire palate of abstract sculpture emerged.

Through his passion and mastery, Blank is fast emerging as one of North America's premiere figurative sculptors with a style quintessentially his own. Recently, Blank was among a group of America's most renowned glass artists invited to make presentations to create public art for the new 7 World Trade Center Building in New York City.

His vision of glass penetrates the senses of collectors worldwide, on display in galleries throughout the United States, and featured in international exhibitions including the Millennium Museum in Beijing, China, the Shanghai Museum of Fine Art and the American Embassy in Slovakia. In 2001 he created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "Access to Learning Award" for recipients in Finland, Argentina and Guatemala.

Blank's work finds its genesis in energy. He creates through intuition, from the hum of motion that allows space to flow, turn, and carry the eye around the piece. Whether the gentle curves of an abstract piece or the kinetic motion of his signature figures, the energy brought to life through their materials and creation radiates.

He has admired the grace and flow of human form since childhood, digging into clay at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts at age 13. After earning a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1984, under the tutelage of Bruce Chow, Blank traveled West to create with Dale Chihuly. There, he quickly earned a place as an integral part of that team.

An artists' reception will be held Saturday, October 11, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at MoNA.


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