The Makings of a Master
by Dante Zu¿iga-West
Though an artists work is the timeless stamp of his/her merit, it is the product of a process that occurs largely behind the scenes. Notebooks, journals, scribbling and sketches on napkins are often the genesis of the great works we know only in final form. The David McCosh exhibit at the Jordan Schnitzer museum is taking a look inside that process with technology and some help from the late master lithographer himself.
In the mid 1930s, the already venerated McCosh came to teach at the School of Architecture and Allied Arts at UO. A world traveler, SAIC alumnus and Tiffany Foundation Fellowship recipient, McCosh was an artist who believed in the use of a limited palette ã focusing on color blending in a somewhat minimalist approach to his process. He also understood the vitality of creating work from the bowels of his experience as an artist. McCosh painted rooms he rented while trying to “make it” in Depression-era Chicago, even naming such work “Furnished Room Chicago” in further tribute to the ordinary. Deserted city scenes, aqueducts, lone street lights overlooking dark alleys, dilapidated candy-bar factories, the gravediggers of his fathers cemetery in Cedar Rapids ã these are some of the subjects of his work. He was perhaps, first and foremost, a student of his environment.
Despite McCoshs well-documented artistic and scholastic achievements, not much has been archived of his personal process. But the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is about to change that.
Danielle Knapp, McCosh Fellow curator at the Schnitzer, has combed through a sizeable collection of McCoshs recently donated sketchbooks. “This exhibit is something that gives viewers an experience they cant get anywhere else,” she says while flipping through the personal journals spread before her. With gloved fingers she opens to a page and points out a small sketch in which McCosh has intricately mapped out several city blocks ã detailing not only where the notable art museums are located, but also the cheapest places to purchase beer.
The intimate look into the process of a master artisan will be on display via iPad, and museumgoers can flip through selected digitally copied pages of McCoshs journals at leisure. This is in addition to the more than 80 individual works that will also be hung in the show, which is aptly titled “The Making of David McCosh.”
“The Making of David McCosh” runs July 23 through Sept. 4 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.