LINCOLN, NEBRASKA.-The Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery presents The Unknown Blakelock, on view through April 05, 2008. Loans from museums throughout the country compose this retrospective of 40-plus paintings by Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919). On view together for the first time, these works explore Blakelock's surprising breadth of themes and give credence to the painter as a primary influence on 20th-century American painting.
Often viewed as a 19th-century landscape romanticist, Blakelock has been historically associated with two dominant themes, moonlight scenes and Indian encampments. His broader accomplishments, obscured by his tragic mental illness and numerous forgeries produced in his style, have been largely overlooked by critics.
The Unknown Blakelock presents the artists grander vision and explores its effect on todays artists.
Modern art scholars, including Norman Geske in his recently published Beyond Madness: The Art of Ralph Albert Blakelock, extoll a proto-modern vision in Blakelocks artworks.
They find his influence on contemporary painters from the 1950s Abstract Expressionists (Blakelock paintings were in Franz Klines collection) to those working today. This more comprehensive view of Blakelocks artwork finds many themes western landscapes, Native American scenes, Jamaican landscapes, shanty scenes, seascapes, still lifes and imaginary/fantasy compositions.
One gallery in the exhibition is devoted to the authentication of Blakelocks work. In 1969 Geske launched The Nebraska Blakelock Inventory as a means of analyzing paintings attributed to the artist. Paintings that are absolutely and unquestionably by Blakelocks hand are placed in Category I. Category II paintings are those that lack either a history of ownership or his signature. Category III works are those that lack both signature and provenance, and show discrepancies in style, making attribution questionable. Examples in Category IV are those that are completely and unmistakably wrong frequently and lovingly called Fakelocks.
A catalogue, accompaning the exhibition, includes three essays and Jan Driesbachs foreword, which provides context for works in the exhibition. Identifying the Unknown Blakelock by Geske examines the full scope of Blakelocks accomplishment. Mark Mitchells essay Radical Color: Blakelock in Context explores Blakelocks use of vibrant, saturated hues in relation to contemporary artistic movements and its role in the development of his early reputation. Ralph Albert Blakelock and Contemporary Painting by Daniel Siedell, draws on several artist interviews about the nature of Blakelocks painting offering insight into the state of contemporary painting, and also revealing something about Blakelocks distinctive aesthetic worldview.
The Blakelock paintings in the exhibition will be reinstalled at Sheldon in May with works from the permanent collection to illustrate the artists influence on contemporary American painters. The reinstallation will be on view from April through August. The Unknown Blakelock will be on exhibit at the The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York City from September 25, 2008, through January 4, 2009. There will be an opening reception for the exhibition in New York on October 1.
The exhibition, catalogue and programs are generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, as well as Ameritas Charitable Foundation, the Nebraska Arts Council, Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation and the Nebraska Art Association.