Monday, October 19, 2009
Eric Gill at USF
Drawn from USF’s Albert Sperisen Collection, the over 100 works in “Eric Gill Iconographer” primarily represent wood engravings completed between 1910 to 1940. These were commonly completed on boxwood using carving tools and were printed in limited editions using letterpress technology. Original engraving blocks and publications are also on display.
Eric Gill was one of the most colorful and eccentric figures in early 20th century art. Sculptor, typographer, and writer, it was his powerful but elegant line combined with his dramatic graphic sense that makes his works so prized.
"Letters are things, not pictures of things."
"Lettering is a precise art and strictly subject to tradition. The New Art notion that you can make letters whatever shapes you like, is as foolish as the notion, if anyone has such a notion, that you can make houses any shapes you like. You can't, unless you live all by yourself on a desert island".
As we learn more and more about Gill, it becomes more and more difficult to separate opinions about his work from his life. His out-of-control sexuality which he justified with his own version of Catholicism, his flouting of societal norms regarding incest taboos make huge demands on those who admire his art. Yet, his artistic work has held up. His sculpture is still packs a powerful punch, his woodcuts and engravings are both delicate and engaging, his lettering and type fonts remain influential in the fields of calligraphy and typography. His religious carvings and sculptures still have a wonderful contemporary resonance.
But the more we understand of the prevalence of child abuse, the more reprehensible Gill's personal morality becomes. Although a current biography of Gill claims that his daughters weren't bothered by their abuse and lead happy and productive lives, that knowledge alone can't help but taint our viewing of any of his works dealing with children. His son, apparently, didn't fare so well. His life was a tragedy and one can't help but wonder what effect the sexual hi-jinks in the Gill household had on him and on other beings who came into Gill's orbit. Just what do we do with Eric Gill? Should we, CAN WE, just look with appreciation and delight? Separating the work of an artist from his or her life can sometimes be a conundrum; it's all the more difficult with Eric Gill.
November 5-December 20, 2009
Donohue Rare Book Room, 3rd Floor Gleeson Library
October 11-December 20, 2009
Thacher Gallery at USF