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NMPBS ¡COLORES!: Gustave Baumann

NMPBS ¡COLORES!: Gustave Baumann

>>GUSTAVE BAUMANN WAS A MASTER OF HIS CRAFT.>>Thomas Leech: Why do I like the prints? Well, I’m a printmaker and they’re the
best I’ve ever seen.>>Gustave Baumann Recording: Pointing hurriedly
the next morning to a spot on the map over the breakfast table, I gulp my coffee and
murmur to Jane and Anne, “This is where I expect to stay tonight.” And kiss them goodbye before they have a chance
to ask, “but where will you be the next night?” And I’m off, taking with me the secret hope
of a sketching ground no artist’s eye has ever beheld. The Southwest has many surprises in store
for the artist in search of inspirational material. If you can visualize this section of the map
as a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, it will produce almost any kind of subject
matter you might ask for. Basic forms and color combinations we like
to think of as exclusively modern, have been here for a long time, waiting only to be recognized.>>Leech: When he was printing in the ‘20’s
he was doing color things that Matisse and the Fauves in Europe were doing. He was a modernist when it came to color.>>Baumann Recording: There’s a feeling of
rightness in the orderly confusion of shapes, thrown about the landscape with it’s multi-colored
ash and mud lava flows and yet it’s a bit disconcerting when I find that what gives
it art and painting value is no more than the shimmering iridescence of the atmosphere. While this makes a visual wonderland out of
wholly unhuman surroundings, it also makes an ambulating dust mote out of the artist.>>Leech: When Baumann started being recognized
for his printmaking, people who were writing about him were talking about this lost art
of printmaking but the thing is is Baumann was actually at the vanguard of color woodblock
printing. When he first came to Santa Fe he did a very
large print of Frijoles Canyon, called day of the Deer Dance and it’s bigger than what
would fit on the press. It was noted at the time that he had made
the largest color woodcut ever. He wanted to do some groundbreaking things
and he did. Many of his prints start with a tempera painting,
sort of a thick water color. And he’s already thinking of what color
blocks he’s going to have to carve. He was able to make that mental transference
from paint and carved wood and ink and paper. Baumann made his own ink. He’s not squeezing ink out of a tube or
getting it out of a can. He was that concerned with his craftsmanship
that he went to the effort of grinding his own pigments, mixing it with varnishes and
oils. You don’t see in nature some of the colors
he was putting into the sky for instance. But never the less he got it all worked together. And so that’s where I think he was being
in a sense an expressionist with color. Printmaking can be easy or it can be incredibly
difficult. And Baumann made the difficult look easy. There is a romance that we lay on Baumann
or artists of that period, thinking isn’t it a wonderful thing to do this, but for Gus
it was work, it was just simply work. And this commitment to an idea and following
it all the way through. There is a German saying, whether he knew
it or not, but it goes, “Work is the Sweetness of Life” and that was very much how he approached
all of his work. This is Gustave Baumann’s “My Canyon Road
Studio”, 1919. In Baumann’s case, you could look at his
prints like a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle, where these things, not only do they fit together,
but they overlap to create new colors. I particularly love, “Rain in the Mountains.” You know, all of a sudden after the storm
the way colors become vivid and he translated that into ink and paper. I think one of the legacy’s Baumann left
us, with a number of his prints, is this set of progressive proofs. And they’re all separate carvings, they’re
all separate blocks. It shows how a print came together. The first print, how the first color looks
by itself and then the second color, and then the third color and the forth and so on to
the final print.>>Baumann Recording: While I live with art
all the time, there’s something about it that annoys me no end, because art is such
a patient word. You can dress it up or turn it inside out,
torment or abuse it any way you like, spread it so thin that it’s inner workings no longer
function. Then just when you think it has arrived at
the vanishing point, there it is again all dressed up with a capital A. It is practically
indestructible. This is Gustave Baumann talking.>>Leech: Why I think it’s important to re-look
at Gustave Baumann and examine his work and his work ethic is because it is so tied to
the traditional art of the craftsman. There’s that moment of peace that he seems
to capture in the prints. When I’m looking at one there’s always
an instant when I feel like, “Oh, I get it.” Ya know, this is what he was trying to tell
me, and the beauty, ‘cause he is trying to show us beauty, no doubt about it. When you communicate with that, when you connect
with that, that’s what’s great about a Baumann print. The prints are both intimate and expansive
and universal, ya know, we all would love to walk into those scenes. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend an afternoon
in a Baumann woodcut.

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