Antonio Frasconi

(About art, not language.)

NYT death notice (by Douglas Martin) for Antonio Frasconi (in print in the Art & Design section on the 22nd, in the general obits yesterday):

Antonio Frasconi, Woodcut Master, Dies at 93

In 1953, Time magazine called Antonio Frasconi America’s foremost practitioner of the ancient art of the woodcut. Four decades later, Art Journal called him the best of his generation.

Mr. Frasconi did not reach this pinnacle by adhering to orthodoxies. He found inspiration in comic books as well as the old masters. He decried art education, saying the average student does not learn the pertinent questions, much less the answers. He abhorred art that dwelt on aesthetics at the expense of social problems. He repeatedly addressed war, racism and poverty, and devoted a decade to completing a series of woodcut portraits of people who were tortured and killed under a rightist military dictatorship in his home country, Uruguay, from 1973 to 1985.

A remarkable woodcut of 1955, “What a Shout! Ben Harding”:

More from the obit:

Mr. Frasconi was patient and meticulous in his art, which involves making an impression on paper from a design carved in a block of wood. Before producing a woodcut titled “Sunrise — Fulton Fish Market” in 1953, he spent three months wandering Lower Manhattan’s wharves and the holds of fishing boats. He spent hour upon hour studying “just how a man lifts a box,” he said.

He then spent three weeks carving five wood blocks, each to apply a different color, as they are stamped successively on the same sheet of paper. He said the capricious nature of wood governed many artistic decisions. He loved the hands-on experience of working with wood, some of which he gathered from the beach in front of his home.

… Some of Mr. Frasconi’s work was devilishly playful. His 1952 book, “The World Upside Down,” pictured a bull butchering a human, a man in a bird cage while a bird cavorts outside, and a sheep herding a flock of humans. A dog sleeps in bed, while a man slumbers in a doghouse on the floor. A fire hydrant is nearby, apparently in case the man needs it.

A 1958 version of the Fulton Fish Market piece:

And the 1952 “The Butcher (my turn)”:

Frasconi deliberately chose mostly tough subjects (though he did do illustrations for children) and a demanding art form. Some artists are like that.


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