Gift of Chicago Imagist Barbara Rossi prints from the Kohler Foundation
Barbara Rossi (1940 – 2023)
The most recent gift to the NIU Art Museum Permanent Collection is a small group of prints by Chicago artist Barbara Rossi (1940-2023). Although she ran in the same circles as many of the “Chicago Imagists”, her beginnings were as a nun in the Catholic Church. She took a drawing class at the Art Institute in 1967, then decided to enroll full-time, graduating with a master's degree in 1970.
The earliest drawings in the donation are from this year. They are experimental prints on fabric such as Footnote on Portraiture, an augmented photoetching of a very strange vacuum-formed doll of a shouting cowboy. The most recent print in the donation is Moon Meet May from 1993. This print shows the influence of Rossi's time spent in India researching that country's rich tradition of vernacular small-scale paintings on paper.
In addition to seven prints by Rossi is the portfolio of etchings A.G.B. 1+10. Published in 1993, the portfolio contains etchings by Roger Brown, Mary Bero, Richard Hull, Gladys Nilsson and seven others, including another by Rossi (a black-and-white version of Moon Meet May).
Works on Paper from John and Janice Driesbach
An important self-portrait by Mauricio Lasansky is among several prints recently donated to the museum by John Driesbach and his wife Janice.
John is the son of NIU professor emeritus David F. Driesbach, who studied with Lasansky at the University of Iowa in the late 1940s. The self-portrait engraving hung in the DeKalb home of David and Maggie Driesbach for many years and was eventually inherited by John.
With this donation, it returns to DeKalb and joins a sizeable archive of David's artwork at the NIU Art Museum. Also included in the donation are the original drawing and several working proofs for the intaglio print “Shaking Still” by Chicago artist Phyllis Bramson. Bramson produced the print with the assistance of David Driesbach and his NIU printmaking students in 1985.
Major Archive of Prints by Letterio Calapai
Evanston art collector Joel S. Dryer acquired the entire estate of prolific printmaker Letterio (Leo) Calapai several years ago and has been systematically donating large groups of these prints to museums around the country (most recently to Syracuse University in upstate New York).
The donation to NIU numbers about 300 intaglio prints, wood engravings and lithographs, spanning the 1930s until the artist's death in Glencoe, IL in 1993. In the 1940s, Calapai served as a chief technician at Stanly William Hayter's Atelier 17 printmaking workshop in New York City.
"The connection to Hayter is significant in its own right but is especially meaningful to our collection here at NIU," mentions Assistant Director Peter Olson. " Hayter also trained Mauricio Lasansky, who was David Driesbach's teacher in graduate school."
When he had a sabbatical in 1969, Driesbach took the opportunity to travel to Atelier 17 (then located in Paris) to work with Hayter himself.
"Our collection holds prints by Hayter, Lasansky, Driesbach and Calapai, as well as a photographic archive of the famous Atelier 17 printmaking studio. In the cases of Driesbach and Calapai, we have several working proofs and drawings, as well as finished prints, enhancing the educational richness of this resource," adds Olson.