Monograph on the Artist
George Wardlaw: Crossing Borders
by J. Richard Gruber, Ori Z. Soltes, and Suzette McAvoy
Preface by Grace Glueck
Published by Marshall Wilkes, Inc.
Hardcover, 184 pages
11 x 11 inches
Full color throughout
86 Color Plates; 104 Color Illustrations
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“George Wardlaw: Outward Expressionism”
by Leah Tripplett, Art New England, July/August 2012
A sculptor, painter, jewelry maker, and teacher, George Wardlaw is also a father and family man. It’s fitting then that George Wardlaw: Crossing Borders, the first major monograph of his life and work that situates him within the canon of twentieth-century American art, begins with a foreward by independent curator Lori Friedman, noting how she first met Wardlaw at an Amherst, Massachusetts, Little League game. Their meet-ing led Wardlaw to invite Friedman to visit his Amherst studio, not far from where he had taught for the bulk of his career at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
“Sculpting the Bible”
by Stewart Kampel, Hadassah Magazine, June/July 2012
George Wardlaw, a child of the Depression who converted to Judaism in 1955, toiled prolifically and creatively as a painter, jewelry-maker and sculptor over a 60-plus-year career, and now his colorful, expressionist work has been captured in a lavishly illustrated coffee-table book. Of particular interest in Crossing Borders are the Jewish themes, as explained by Ori Z. Soltes, former director of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C.
Crossing Borders presents over 180 full-color plates and illustrations, representing six decades of work by American artist George Wardlaw (b.1927), the first comprehensive account of this remarkable body of work. Critical essays by J. Richard Gruber, Ori Z. Soltes, and Suzette McAvoy characterize Wardlaw’s work, placing it in context with the significant art movements of his time, beginning in 1948, with non-objective painting and tracing his journey across geographical, physical, intellectual, philosophical, and spiritual boundaries.
Never confined by categories, Wardlaw explores medium, form, scale, and color as a lifelong dialogue between abstraction and spirituality. From his Baptist and Native American roots to Judaism, from the rural south to the urban northeast, from painting to sculpture and back again, Wardlaw produced series after series of profound artworks on his quest for creative and spiritual resolution.
Raised on a farm in Mississippi during the hard years of the Great Depression, Wardlaw emerged from his meager beginnings to become a member of the avant-garde art scene in New York City during the 1950s and ’60s. He went on to become an important figure in American art and an influential teacher. After serving in World War II, Wardlaw used the GI Bill to attend the Memphis Academy of Arts. He taught and studied art at the University of Mississippi with David Smith, Jack Tworkov, and Reginald Neal; was an Assistant Professor at LSU and SUNY; and was later recruited by Jack Tworkov to teach at Yale before serving as the Chair of the Art Department at the UMASS, Amherst, where he remained for the rest of his academic career.
Beginning with his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1960, Wardlaw has continued to exhibit widely in galleries and museums, including a solo show at the deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in 1978, and a mid-career retrospective at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the Memphis College of Art in 1988. His work is in several public and museum collections, including Johnson Wax Headquarters, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, and the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Throughout his career, Wardlaw devoted his life to making art, driven by his passion and desires rather than responding to popular trends. This freedom of expression yielded a significant and impressive body of work—one that reveals a unique story, both personal and universal, weaving one man’s perspective into the larger canon of twentieth-century American art.
Quotes About the Book
“A significant figure in American art, George Wardlaw has prolifically produced paintings, drawings, and sculpture for more than sixty years. The insightful critical essays and numerous illustrations in this volume place the artist’s work in context with relevant movements of his time, reveal the remarkable breadth of his technical mastery, and elucidate the evolution of his singular aesthetic vision. This book serves as an exemplary guide to Wardlaw’s artistic legacy, and is also an important contribution to the study of twentieth-century American art.”
—Daniel Piersol, Former Deputy Director for Programs Mississippi Museum of Art
“No one can say that George Wardlaw is a one-theme artist. Unlike less venturesome colleagues, content to exploit a signature idea or two, Wardlaw’s aesthetic appetite seems unbounded. His passionate exploration of modes and expressions has taken him in practice from jewelry-making to painting to monumental sculpture; in subject matter from lofty religion to humble apples to the rugged coast of Maine. He has aptly described his art as a kind of collage…of different places, times, experience, materials.
“In short, he has produced a rich and varied body of work whose scope defies the limits of a human lifetime, an output that resonates with the insights he has gained in the spiritual quest that eventually led him from Christianity to Judaism.
“If I were forced to choose among the Wardlaw works I could most rewardingly live with, I would settle on his haunting Maine series, begun in the 1990s and still going on. Distillations of land and sea forms in stark grays, blacks, and whites, they are by turns restless, calming, meditative, mysterious, gentle, thunderously foreboding. Responding to these formidable works, one feels acutely keyed in to the artist’s anima, a deeply inspiriting encounter. Thank you, George, for giving your insights and feelings such powerful visual voice.”
—Grace Glueck, Art writer and critic for The New York Times.