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Release: Oct. 25, 2002


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Two of the University of Iowa’s most distinguished alumni from the School of Art and Art History return to Iowa City with their simultaneous exhibitions “Miriam Schapiro’s Art: A Journey” and “Paul Brach: The Negative Way, Geometry of Faith and Music of the Spheres.” The exhibitions will be on display at the UI Museum of Art Nov. 2 through Dec. 15.

The exhibitions will feature works that the artists have completed in the past decade, 15 “femmages” by Schapiro and 22 paintings and a print series by Brach.

Schapiro will present the Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture, “My Journey through Art,” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, in the Buchanan Auditorium of the UI John Pappajohn Business Building.

In conjunction with the Schapiro exhibition there will be a viewing of “Womanhouse,” a film by Johanna Demetrakas, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, in the Lasansky Room of the Museum of Art. The film explores one of the most significant feminist cultural events of the 1970s, when Schapiro and fellow artist and professor Judy Chicago transformed a condemned house in Los Angeles into Womanhouse, a retreat for women to explore attitudes and fantasies towards domesticity.

In other associated events, Brach will teach several classes at the UI School of Art and Art History, where he will also present an “Artist’s Talk” at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, in Room E109 of the Art Building; and the Museum of Art will offer free gallery tours of the two exhibitions, “The Art of Miriam Schapiro” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, and “The Art of Paul Brach” at 2 p.m. the following Sunday, Nov. 17.

Schapiro and Brach met at the UI more than 50 years ago. Both had grown up in New York City and come to Iowa to pursue an Master of Fine Arts degree from the UI. They married less than a year after they met. Today, the two 78-year-olds continue to be one of the most remarkable couples in American art.

“Each of them has made an indelible imprint on the American art world, Paul especially as a teacher and Miriam as a painter,” Howard Collinson, director of the Museum of Art, said, noting that they’ve both won lifetime achievement awards from the College Art Association.

The artistic styles of the artists could not be more distinct. After discovering feminist principles in her late 40s, Schapiro took a new direction in her art. She developed a vocabulary that led to the Pattern and Decoration Movement and feminist-oriented collages she calls “femmages.” These works incorporating women’s handcrafts led to her recognition as a leader in the feminist movement in art. Schapiro started the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts, where she was inspired to create Womanhouse.

Schapiro has received numerous grants and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Ford Foundation grant and the Rockefeller Foundation Grant for Artists Residency at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. Her work is displayed in collections in the United States, Germany, Australia and Israel, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York; the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Germany; and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

In his paintings Brach is an abstract expressionist and minimalist. His works have been widely exhibited with 33 one-person shows and two nationally touring retrospectives. His work at the Museum of Art will include “The Negative Way,” a print series that refers to a late medieval theology that defined God by listing all of the things he is not; “The Geometry of Faith,” paintings reflecting on the pseudo-certainty of acting as if there is a God; and “Music of the Spheres,” based on theories of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras.

In both series of paintings, Brach has placed clusters of spheres against monochrome backgrounds and included quotations of relevant texts.

Brach has also had a remarkable career as an educator. He was the founding dean of the California Institute of the Arts and a Milton Avery Distinguished Professor at Bard College in New York. In 1994, the College of Art Association awarded him its Distinguished Teaching Award for lifetime achievement.

The annual Spriestersbach Lecture at the Museum of Art honors Bette R. Spriestersbach, a museum docent and a former program associate in the Child Health Specialty Clinics in the UI Hospital School. She is the wife of former UI vice president Duane C. Spriestersbach, who endowed the lecture in 1992 through a gift to the University of Iowa Foundation.

The exhibitions are sponsored by Hudson River Gallery and Frame Co., and Salon Contemporary Furniture and Art, with support from the Sheraton Iowa City Hotel.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, and noon to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots west and north of the museum.

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