Karl Schrag: Memories and Premonitions

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Karl Scharg 1

Our newest exhibition, Karl Schrag: Memories and Premonitions (August 28 – October 16), is an interesting collection of over 40 modernist drawings, paintings and prints. Curated by Syracuse University Art Galleries director, Domenic Iacono,  this exhibition was first on view at the Lowe Gallery at Syracuse University last fall. The Mitchell Gallery is honored to be the first “road” venue.

Sadly, Karl Schrag (1912-1995) may be an unfamiliar name to many, and I confess that my knowledge of him was sparse until Syracuse’s exhibition of his works from their collection. That said, Schrag’s career was impressive and distinctive in a number of ways. Schrag had a number of sides to his career as a father of two children and a teacher, probably his most well-known role was that of serving as the director of Atelier 17, the world-renown experimental printmaking workshop originally founded in Paris by Stanley William Hayter in 1927. While much is to be said about Hayter (and amusingly, Schrag’s writings refers to Hayter as “Bill,” certainly a name I’ve never heard for the revered printmaker!) Schrag’s work, like Hayter, supported printmaking as an independent art form.

Due to the war in Europe, Hayter moved Atelier 17  to New York City, initially at the New School for Social Research, and then relocated again in 1945 to Greenwich Village.  Schrag was one of the artists associated with the Atelier and later became the director. This workshop, whether in Paris or New York City,  was a place of collaboration by artists from all over the world, including Calder, Chagall, Miro, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko and others. Their timing for resurrecting lithography, etching, woodblock and other techniques came at a period where printmaking had been relegated to mass production technology for books, newspapers, and advertising media in the 19th century and early 20th century. Through the efforts of several artists, including Hayter and Schrag printmaking was once again recognized as an artistic and creative medium and the atelier served as a “think tank” for collaboration. Schrag wrote:

The Atelier was in a sense a meeting place where problems for beyond printmaking were discussed. It was not at all like a crafts school or anything like that. The whole complex of what graphics could be and also the elements that make up graphics, like line, and values, and to a degree, color–the whole problem became visible and you could make your own choice as to what you would accept and what you can accept.

Lucinda Dukes Edinberg – Mitchell Gallery Art Educator

Photo credit: Karl Schrag, Autumn Wind and Stars, four color lithograph on wove paper, 1988 Courtesy of Syracuse University Art Collection