COLUMBIA - Frank Stack is known for his work in "underground comix," Lawrence Rugolo for his screen printing and Larry Kantner for a painting style that juxtaposed figures in the foreground with vibrant, solid backgrounds. Together, their work is being honored in an art show up through Thursday at MU.
Digital photography, comic book pages, screen-prints, sketches: Each wall in the Bingham Gallery seems to showcase a different genre, yet only three artists are represented in the 60 works.
WHAT: Lifetime Achievement Showcase: Part Two, featuring Frank Stack, Lawrence Rugolo and Larry Kantner, professors emeriti of the MU department of art
WHEN: Through Thursday. The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Bingham Gallery, A-125 Fine Arts Center, Hitt Street and University Avenue, MU
Stack, Rugolo and Kantner, all professors emeriti of MU's art department, are being honored at the second part of the Lifetime Achievement Showcase, which opened July 14. The first part, which ran June 2 through July 10, honored William Berry, Oliver Schuchard and Robert Bussabarger. These six artists were chosen because of their unique and important contributions not only to the MU art department but to the larger art world.
"They have given a lot of service to the department. They are well recognized in the region, nationally and internationally," said Daniel Farnum, director of the Bingham Gallery. "We chose them because of their dedication to the program and their ability."
Their displayed works are diverse. Stack's works are the most eclectic, with some rowdy and sometimes raunchy comic book pages, including one from the comic "The Adventures of Dirty Diana," as well as paintings of himself, abstract landscapes and nudes. Outside the gallery, glass cases display several more examples of his comic book work.
Stack is credited with being the father of "underground comix" with his series "The Adventures of Jesus," which he wrote under the pseudonym Foolbert Sturgeon. Underground comix are self-published comic books that coincided with the 1960s counterculture ideology and are considered the precursors to today's graphic novels. Stack also gained acclaim when some of his works were highlighted in the 2003 film "American Splendor," Farnum said.
Kantner's work is comprised mainly of paintings of figures that he describes as taking a "hard edge style with an emphasis on limited color fields." His paintings are vibrant, the figures are stark against their solid backgrounds. At the Bingham, the paintings seem to jump out from the off-white walls on which they are displayed.
Kantner himself stands out as a teacher, having received a Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching and the MU College of Education Pillar of Excellence in Teaching, among various other awards.
"Teaching is not only a science, it's an art," he said in a biography adjacent to his works. "I believe that art is made from the materials of our own life, not because those materials are the most expedient, but because these are the things to which a person gives meaning."
Rugolo at one time focused mainly on serigraphy, or screen printing, but he has more recently turned his focus towards digital photography.
"My preference was screen printing, but because of my health I had to stop," Rugolo said. "My back went out about 10 years ago and pulling a squeegee across a screen isn't conducive to physical health. Now I do digital photography."
Rugolo describes his transition from screen printing to digital photography as a natural progression. He had a dark room next to his studio that he used for some screen printing techniques that required developing film, which in turn led to his use of a digital camera. He currently uses a Nikon D50, which he said creates sharp images akin to his earlier screen prints. He typically does not manipulate his photos on the computer but uses the image as it was taken, Rugolo said.
He also maintained continuity in his transition from serigraphy to photography by continuing to represent the same genres, including landscapes, figures and geometric shapes. He chose representative pieces from each to exhibit.
Having to abandon screen printing did not come easily at first for Rugolo.
"It was kind of unsettling to realize I couldn't continue doing it (screen printing) because it was my big love for all those years," Rugulo said, "but I'm getting some success from digital photography."