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Ken Freed's gift to the University Art Collection honors Professor Emeritus Curtis Rhodes

In 1976 while attending graduate school at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo-based artist Ken Freed earned a Ford Foundation Grant to create a suite of ten intaglio prints. Mentored by Professor Curtis Rhodes, who founded the print collection within the University Art Collection, Freed took as his muse the subject of the artist’s studio. Aided, as Freed recalls, by “the kindness of so many artists who took pity on a twenty-some year-old student from Michigan,” Freed visited the New York City studios of Lowell Nesbitt, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Philip Pearlstein, Louise Nevelson, Richard J. Haas, William S. Haney, Stephen Woodburn, Hiroshi Murata, and Robert Indiana. 


Donated to the University Art Collection in March of 2020, these ten intaglio prints capture the private studios of artists who created works of public interest and historical significance. Suggestive of the hours of solitude that underlie the creative process, this suite of figureless, tonally rich and technically complex prints gives the impression of glancing over an artist’s shoulder or looking through their window. 


Influenced by late 19th century French illustrator Félix Hilaire Buhot's custom of creating what he called “symphonic margins,” Mr. Freed added textual elements, small images, and Egyptian symbols into the border of each print. Hinting, perhaps, about the kinds of preliminary notes and sketches that imaginative endeavors require, these marks in the margins also appear to magnify the central subject. Dense and atmospheric, painterly and photographic at once, this intimate suite of prints combines etching, aquatint, and drypoint techniques. Printed in a small edition, Mr. Freed spent one year completing the series. 

This exhibition is on view in the Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery from March 1-May 2, 2021.

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