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Painting on the Edge: The Art of William Beckman


A selection of direct and challenging portraits and landscapes by contemporary artist William Beckman are on view at the Frye in Painting on the Edge: The Art of William Beckman August 2 - October 27, 2002.

Beckman paints himself, loved-ones, and the land he has lived upon. His subjects, whether mother or lover, are delivered to the viewer with gripping details, without embellishment. His work, whether of a spouse, or parent, partner or friend, is the product of a long-term relationship between artist and subject. These relationships are what inspire the content on all of Beckman's work and in a room full. of work by Beckman, it becomes clear that this content is deeply felt. (left: William Beckman, Self Portrait, 1998, oil on panel, 14 1/4 x 12 inches)

Beckman creates his figurative art using a unique method. He applies paint, then shaves off layer after layer from the surface with a razor, repainting and polishing the canvas to create lustrous, absorbing images. His realism is stripped of sentiment, his un-idealized portraits scrupulously rendered and his expansive tracts of farmland theatrically scaled. Each painting is epic in significance and matter-of-fact at the same time.

The exhibition is organized by the Frye Art Museum and includes works with these themes: boxes, couples, landscapes, drawings, portraits, and figures. Works from Beckman's earliest period consist of a series of boxes (from 1967 to 1970) depicting solitary female nudes within imaginary domestic interiors. Later, he created frontal images, primarily of his former wife Diana. In many cases these figures are riveting, the model virtually staring down the viewer.

The Couples images are of Beckman and his wife, where he again confronts the viewer, this time with his own gaze. Beckman's self-portraits are numerous; he paints himself as a way to measure how he feels about himself over time and to gain a measure of immortality. His landscapes are also about relationships: most often between farmer and environmentalist. Like Beckman's figure paintings, the landscapes are both challenging and accessible.

His work is featured in public collections internationally, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Museum Moderne Kunst in Vienna, Austria, the Flint Institute of Arts, in Detroit, MI, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, the Art Institute of Chicago in IL, the Weatherspoon Art Gallery in Greenville, SC, the Milwaukee Art Museum in WI, and the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

A full color catalogue of Beckman's complete works will be available through the Museum Store.

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