Ronald Markman: Remembering the Mastermind of Mukfa

Study for Cityscape II, 1994. Black ink and colored pencil on paper. Echo Press Archive, Eskenazi Museum of Art 95.72.2

 

On May 30, artist and former professor at Indiana University, Ronald Markman, passed away. Below Nan Brewer, Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art reflects on Markman’s career.

In 1962 on a Fulbright scholarship to Italy, Markman saw old maps of Rome by printmakers like Piranesi and was inspired to create his own mythical metropolis. Dubbed Mukfa, which he thought sounded both slightly obscene and sort of lyrical, it became the subject of an on-going series. As Markman later recalled, “Creating a country of my very own, complete with its own heroes, villains, mermaids, newspapers, airlines, and university offered me the freedom I had always sought from art.”

The works’ bright colors and cartoonish style recall the scenic designs of Broadway musicals, comic art, and the Marx Brothers’ movies—all experiences associated with Markman’s childhood in the Bronx. Although he started out with the dream of becoming a cartoonist, Markman continued his studies at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students’ League on the advice of Saul Steinberg who told him to learn to draw. A stint in the army and subsequent GI bill enabled Markman to attend the Yale School of Fine Arts, where he studied under master colorist Josef Albers and earned a BFA and an MFA. His understanding of color theory garnered Markman a job as a color consultant for Hallmark Cards Co. where he worked for a year after college and would become a central feature of his own creative work.

Turning to painting as his primary medium, Markman also began to teach. After short stints at the University of Florida and the Art Institute of Chicago, he joined the painting faculty at Indiana University in 1964, where he taught until his retirement in 1995. After his retirement and the death of his wife, Barbara, Markman moved to Maryland, in order to be near his only daughter, Ericka. He continued to make art and exhibit his work.

In addition to his many paintings, prints, and drawings, Markman created a series of five wall murals for Riley Hospital in Indianapolis (1986) and a short animated film, Ever Since the Bad Thing Happened (1994). His work is found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Johnson Museum of Art, and many other institutions.

The Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes twenty-two works by this artist. Here is a small sampling.

Cityscape, 1980. Color lithograph with collage on paper. Echo Press Archive, Eskenazi Museum of Art 86.59.1

 

Despite an innate playfulness and naïve, childlike style, there is often a subtle political commentary in Markman’s images. In Cityscape, a print collage created at Bloomington’s Echo Press, a plane crashing into a city, while pursued by the cops, along with the congested skyscrapers, clocks, “eyeball” lamp, and ant-like vehicles, exhort a police state and the inhumanity of totalitarianism. However, speaking about his depictions of evil in the world, Markman said, “I don’t see myself as a mean artist, but I do like to poke fun.”

Garden, 1965. Acrylic on canvas. Museum purchase with funds from the Hope Fund, Eskenazi Museum of Art 65.65.1

 

The Eskenazi Museum of Art acquired its first work by the young faculty member a year after he came to IU. Markman’s iconic three-breasted women in this painting suggest the “limits of the nonsensical, the absurd and the subversive” found in his art.

Money, 1962. Etching on paper. Gift of the artist, Eskenazi Museum of Art 68.94.2

 

This print shows the extent to which Markman took his imperial fantasy. The currency represents both sides of an 8 DRAS bill from the Republic of Mukfa.

Still Life with Flowers, 1980. Mixed media assemblage: acrylic paint, wood, plastic, and wicker. Gift of Professor Emeritus Gene Shreve, Eskenazi Museum of Art 2013.165

 

In his later work, Markman began to push the limits of the traditional four-sided canvas by creating painted sculptural reliefs as still life tableaus or hung “rugs.”

For more on Ronald Markman read his recent obituary in the New York Times, or visit Markman’s website.

Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

 

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IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Now Home to the Largest Rainwork in the World!

Rainwork in rainstorm
Mandala Rainwork at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art. Photo by Abe Morris

What is a Rainwork?
Rainworks are rain-activated street art that are completely invisible when dry, and only appear when they are wet. Rainworks are designed to make rainy days happier. They are created by using a super hydrophobic spray called Rainworks Invisible Spray. Rainworks typically last 2 to 4 months.

Who Created Rainworks?
Artists named Peregrine Church and Xack Fischer developed Rainworks in their hometown Seattle, WA (ie. rain capital U.S.A). After a video of Rainworks went viral on the Internet, Rainworks have appeared all over the world.

What Is The Largest Rainwork Ever Created?
The Indiana University Eskenazi Museum of Art in Bloomington, Indiana, commissioned Church and Fischer to install a Rainwork in the plaza in front of the art museum. The result is Mandala, the largest Rainwork ever created, at almost thirty-four feet in diameter. Mandala was installed in eleven hours by Church and Fischer, with additional assistance from Emelie Flower and Abe Morris. It was unveiled before a crowd of hundreds who launched almost 150 water balloons at the Rainwork to make it visible. Find more photos of the installation and unveiling of Mandala below. Church and Fischer are also teaching workshops on how to create Rainworks during their stay in Bloomington. The IU Eskenazi Museum of Art is actively working with organizations and individuals to create more Rainworks in Bloomington, to use this project to take art out into the community and make art a fun and surprising part of people’s daily lives. Many thanks for Peregrine, Xack for their brilliant ideas, and for bringing Rainworks to our community.

Watch a video of the Rainworks unveiling at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fseattlerainworks%2Fvideos%2F516426055220410%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Find out more information about  Rainworks at Rain.works, including how to create your own.

Rainworks at the Eskenazi Museum of Art is made possible in part by the generous support of Linda Watson. Additional thanks to IU Eskenazi Museum of Art director David Brenneman, and the entire museum staff, the Monroe County Public Library, the IU Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, and the City of Bloomington.

Questions? Contact Abe Morris at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art at: abamorri@iu.edu

IU Eskenazi Museum of Art Website

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Rainwork installation in progress, L to R: Peregrine Church, Emelie Flower. Photo by Abe Morris.
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Installation in progress, from L to R: Rainworks founders Peregrine Church and Xack Fischer. Photo by Kevin Montague.
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Rainwork unveiling by water balloon. Photo by Kevin Montague.
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Rainworks founders Peregrine Church and Xack Fischer with Mandala at the IU Eskenazi Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of Rainworks.

IU Art Museum Tour Leads to a Young Student Meeting Artist John Himmelfarb

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Artist John Himmelfarb and University Elementary student Arlo Altop

Education is at the heart of the IU Art Museum’s mission. We strive to use our collection to help students better understand the world through the language of art. In 2014, almost 4,000 primary and secondary school students and over 11,000 college students toured the IU Art Museum. Here is a story of one student whose tour led to something even greater.

Towards the end of the 2015 school year, University Elementary’s first grade class toured the IU Art Museum. While in the Doris Steinmetz Kellett Gallery of Twentieth-Century Art, one student in particular, Arlo Altop, fell in love with Chicago artist John Himmelfarb’s painting of a truck, titled Forbearance. Apparently trucks are one of Arlo’s favorite things and he was so excited by the painting he saw that he went home, started drawing trucks, and asked his mother, Rebecca, the name of the artist whose painting had seen at the museum. She did a little research and contacted Mr. Himmelfarb to tell him how his work had impacted her son. To her surprise, she received a reply from Himmelfarb soon after, inviting Arlo and the family to Chicago to attend the opening of his most recent exhibition No Exit: Thirty Years of Trucks, Icons and Weird Drawings at the McCormick Gallery in Chicago. The Altops were able to attend the opening and Mr. Himmelfarb was both pleased and surprised that they were able to make it. He spent a good deal of time showing Arlo around the exhibition (as you can see from the photos included here). Himmelfarb informed us that the sculpture in these photos is largely comprised of parts from a 1951 International truck that was given to him by none other than the IU Art Museum’s Director Emerita Heidi Gealt. As Arlo’s mom, Rebecca, said of the trip “Art is so important, I am just happy that my first grader has already had the experience of being moved by it.”

You can find out more about John Himmelfarb and his work at his website. You can also of course stop by the IU Art Museum, where Himmelfarb’s Forbearance is on permanent display.

(Special thanks to Rebecca Altop for sharing this story with us and providing the photos seen here.)

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From Paris to Polynesia: Paul Gauguin at the IU Art Museum

Paul Gauguin, The Invocation, French, 1848 - 1903, 1903, oil on canvas, Gift from the Collection of John and Louise Booth in memory of their daughter Winkie

Image: Paul Gauguin (French, 1848 – 1903). The Invocation, 1903. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., gift from the collection of John and Louise Booth in memory of their daughter Winkie, 1976.63.1

The IU Art Museum is pleased to announce that it will display a painting by French artist Paul Gauguin (1848‒1903) during the 2015‒16 academic year. The painting, entitled The Invocation, 1903, is on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The work is being loaned in exchange for the IU Art Museum’s painting The Yerres, Effect of Rain by impressionist Gustave Caillebotte (1848‒1894) which will appear in the National Gallery’s exhibition Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye.

The Invocation will be featured in a special installation in the IU Art Museum’s Gallery of the Art of the Western World. The installation, From Paris to Polynesia: Paul Gauguin at the IU Art Museum, opens October 1, 2015. Three prints by Gauguin, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, will also be on view.

Considered one of the most important French artists of the 19th century, Paul Gauguin was a leading member of the Symbolism movement, which rejected realism in favor of spiritual and dreamlike imagery. Gauguin developed a style characterized by pure, flat color, simplified forms, and spiritual subject matter.

Gauguin spent most of the 1890s in Tahiti, where he incorporated Polynesian imagery and spiritual allusions into his work. Disappointed that Tahitian traditional culture had been largely destroyed by European colonialism, Gauguin moved to the more remote Marquesas Islands in 1901, where he died less than two years later. One of his final works, The Invocation, alludes to the displacement of traditional Polynesian beliefs by Christianity. The painting depicts a nude female figure standing before a verdant landscape with her arms stretched upwards. Her pose of prayer or invocation contrasts with the figure behind her, who wears the long, loose dress introduced to Polynesia by Christian missionaries, and with the small Catholic church visible in the background.

In conjunction with the loan, the Gauguin biopic, The Wolf at the Door, is scheduled to be shown at the IU Cinema on January 10, 2016. Plans are also underway for additional programming to take place during the spring semester. Please check the museum’s website, www.artmuseum.iu.edu, for additional information.