February 9, 2023
by Jennifer McMahon
Opens February 11 – March 19, 2023 at The Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Driskell’s beloved town Hyattsville, Maryland. Curated by Curlee Raven Holton, PhD.
The exhibition is a testament to the remarkable collaboration between Curlee Holton and David C. Driskell. In an interview with DCArtnews, Holton describes his motivation behind this curation of prints.
“To bring greater understanding and appreciation of his practice as an artist, in the studio. He’s often thought about, primarily, as a groundbreaking art historian and curator but he was a phenomenal artist and there’s a great deal of emotion and intimacy in his work and I wanted to share that with the community, so that they could better understand how art was a solution for him, not just a practice but a solution.” – Curlee Holton
David C. Driskell was a devoted artist who spent much of his life immersed in the preservation of vital American artworks that had yet to be recognized in American Art History. Driskell believed, very seriously, that the integrity of art depended on the remembrance and appreciation of the artists who, through the joy of practice, shaped the development of art as we know it today. Artist’s who created what are now essential artworks in African American Art and the greater American Art canon because of their ability to tap into art as a solution to their own circumstances.
This exhibition embarks to pay that same respect to Driskell; an artist who humbly put the interests of other creators before his own artistic pursuits. David C. Driskell was an Art Historian, Curator, Professor but first and foremost he was a remarkable artist. In this curation, Holton has contributed approximately 30 integral prints that he and Driskell collaborated on through his Fine Art Publishing Studio, Raven Editions, and The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland. The collection showcases the artistic genius of Driskell, the printmaking mastery of Holton, and the power of collaboration.
“There is also a story of master printer and artist that we like to tell. It’s as much Curlee’s work in many ways as it is Dr. Driskell’s because he was the master printer on these projects, so highlighting a beautiful collaboration also helped us tell the story of printmaking.” -Kate Taylor Davis (Executive Director- Pyramid Atlantic)
Printmaking was the natural evolution of Driskell’s ideal, that art is integral to a good life and should be cherished and therefore collected. In 2003 the collaboration between Driskell and Holton was born out of a pursuit to make his art more accessible, collectable and affordable to the public.
“More artists should create greater transparency in the process, so people have a deeper and fuller understanding of what’s involved with the making of an art object and why one makes an art object. Why one speaks in a certain language like printmaking? Why make multiples so more than one can have that work? That’s an advocacy! That’s a sharing, a communal relationship and I want to celebrate that in David.” – Curlee Holton
What started in Holton’s Studio and The Lafayette College’s Experimental Printmaking Institution as a single project creating a print of “Brown Derby”, transformed into a lifelong collaboration between the two artists. Curlee Holton became an essential participant in the creation of Driskell’s prints and was thus appointed as the Executive Director of the David C. Driskell Center. Throughout their partnership they fruitfully produced over 40 unique prints.
Holton decisively chose Pyramid Atlantic Art Center as the venue so the audience could connect Driskell’s art to the greater context of his life and environment in Maryland. “To be able to have an opportunity in Dr. Driskell’s own neighborhood, for his neighbors and people beyond the neighborhood too, to be able to come and have an intimate relationship with the work and be able to actually buy it is a really cool thing.” -Kate Taylor Davis
In 1977, Driskell relocated to Hyattsville to accept a position in the Art department at the University of Maryland and was quickly elevated to the chairman of the University. He made a home for himself in Hyattsville and created his first official studio amidst the forest. At his Hyattsville studio, Driskell was surrounded by pine trees which influenced his work a great deal. He was captivated by the natural beauty of Hyattsville and experimented in his portrayal of it. Below he captures the beauty of Hyattsville in autumn.
The spirit of Hyattsville, much like Driskell, is that of preservation. Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is no exception to that, as their mission is to preserve the democratic art of printmaking. “The hand pulled print is really important to us, so by maintaining the equipment and teaching in a non academic setting, so in a lot of ways it’s sort of handing down knowledge from artist to artist.” -Kate Taylor Davis
Traditional printmaking allows legendary artists like Holton and Driskell to maintain the integrity and unique spirit of each artwork while also making it accessible and building a deeper connection with those who appreciate the work that is included in this collection. Driskell believed that art was a priestly calling and collaborating with master printer Curlee Holton allowed him to share that divine inspiration directly with the people, and now with this exhibition directly with his own community in Hyattsville.
The exhibition is free and open to the public but to learn more about Curlee Holton’s collaboration with Driskell, join Pyramid Atlantic for an in-person preview of A Collaboration of Creativity and an exclusive Artists Talk with Curlee Holton, on Friday, February 10th, 6-8pm.