Carving Space

Carving Space

Schupf donation brings Colby museum one of the foremost collections of renowned artist's works on paper

By Bob Keyes

Colby honored Schupf for his generosity and his many years of service to the College with a luncheon in his honor May 27. Schupf's gift also included a Serra sculpture and drawings.

Paul J. Schupf
Photo by Fred Field
Schupf is a legend on Mayflower Hill. The donation of Serra works is one of many gifts the New York philanthropist and art collector has given Colby. A member of the museum’s board of governors from 1994 to 2006, he has given works by Jackson Pollack, Pablo Picasso, Christo, and major paintings by Alex Katz, including the masterpiece Pas de Deux.

Schupf provided the lead gift for the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz and the Paul J. Schupf Sculpture Court.

Serra also has a long history with Colby. Gourley established a relationship with Serra, securing the masterwork steel-block sculpture 4-5-6 for the museum’s Paul J. Schupf Sculpture Court.

With Schupf’s latest gift, Colby’s collection of Serra’s works on paper spans more than three decades, Corwin said. The New York artist began making prints in 1972 and continues to stretch the medium, she said. "Serra is such a resolutely abstract artist. He just pushes that language further than we have seen it pushed," Corwin said.

The prints in the Schupf gift are heavy—literally and figuratively. Laden with dark colors, they have three-dimensional qualities that demand close inspection.

His prints combine abstraction, materiality, and power, said Kenturah Davis, sales director for Gemini G.E.L., the publisher that handles Serra’s prints. Serra’s prints feel almost as weighty as his sculpture, she said, noting that he often makes his prints by hand by applying paint stick to paper.

"He approaches printmaking the same way he does his sculpture," Davis said. "If you look at his whole body of work, you can find common elements. The gestures and mark making in his prints very much mimic those in his sculpture. He pushes the boundaries of prints to approach a more sculptural field to them."

Schupf, who lives in Hamilton, N.Y., tuned in immediately to Serra’s tactile approach to printmaking. His prints felt terrestrial and alive, said Schupf.

The collector compared Serra to the most important artists of the past century. In 1900, it was Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse, Schupf said. In 1950, it was Pollack. Today, Serra is changing the course of art, influencing how we view sculpture and works on paper.

Schupf compared Serra to Bob Dylan, an artist Schupf also admires. Both are rebels who challenged the system and did not allow criticism from the press and art establishment to deter them or change their artistic course. By sticking to their beliefs, Dylan and Serra both have influenced the world around them in profound and lasting ways, Schupf said. "Just like Dylan is very interested in synthesizing influences that came before him and converting them into a new musical language, Richard has done the same thing in art."

Bob Keyes is the fine arts reporter for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram.
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