Robert Blackburn. Woodscape. 1984. Purchased as the gift of the Joshua Johnson Council in Honor of the 100th Anniversary of The Baltimore Museum of Art; and Print, Drawing, and Photograph Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2012 Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2014.90. Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Robert Blackburn started making woodcuts in the late 1960s. It is one of the many printmaking media he explored in innovative ways throughout his career. Blackburn particularly enjoyed iterative experimentation and pushing the creative possibilities of both form and material. Woodscape, from 1984, is a mature example of his approach. Blackburn probably used three woodblocks to create this piece. On one of them, he raised the wood grain in select areas. The effect is of textured crimson zones set over clean grays and framed by deep black accents. The title “Woodscape” draws attention to that and plays off the idea of landscape. It suggests that a representational intention grounds the picture’s abstraction.
“Woodscape” is one of three Blackburn prints owned by the Baltimore Museum of Art. All entered the collection on the occasion of the museum’s centennial in 2014, purchased as gifts, respectively, of Mark and Lorraine Schapiro and the Joshua Johnson Council, an African American museum support group. The pieces’ abstract style differs considerably from the four figurative lithographs a young Blackburn exhibited in Contemporary Negro Art. Blackburn abandoned figuration entirely by the mid-1950s, and that choice, along with his commitment to the Universal Limited Art Editions (1957-1963) and the fame of his printmaking workshop, has contributed to this master printer being less publicly known than some of his contemporaries.