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 Gala Event Information | Elizabeth Catlett Special | Selected Works (Flash Slideshow)

PRESS RELEASE ~ February 3, 2003 [see Sculpture Magazine online article]


The International Sculpture Center (ISC), the world's leading international sculpture organization, has selected the celebrated African-American sculptor Elizabeth Catlett to receive its 2003 Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. The award was presented to the artist at the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award Gala on Thursday, April 24, 2003 at a private club in New York City. Renowned art critic and writer Michael Brenson and art historian David Driskell, one of the world’s leading authorities on African-American art, provided the evening’s commentary. Ms. Catlett will be present to accept the award.

Camille O. Cosby and William H. Cosby, Jr., and Joyce Wein and George Wein are Honorary Chairpersons of the Gala. Camille and well-known actor Bill Cosby are avid collectors of Ms. Catlett’s work, as are Joyce and jazz impresario George Wein. June Kelly, New York City gallery owner, who has represented Ms. Catlett since 1993, is the Gala Chair. Gala Co-Chairs include Sylvia and Eddie Brown; Ernestine and Malcolm Brown; Thelma Driskell and David Driskell; Carol Sutton Lewis and William J. Lewis Jr.; and Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis, Jr.

Proceeds from the event will benefited the educational programs and membership services of the International Sculpture Center.

About Elizabeth Catlett

Long overlooked, Elizabeth Catlett is now considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Known primarily as a sculptor, but also a printmaker, Catlett is acclaimed for both her technical brilliance and the emotional impact of her works.

A pioneer in the African-American art movement, Catlett set out to create art that would be displayed in places African-Americans could visit. Her goal was to create pieces to which African-Americans could relate, and therefore would want to go to museums and galleries to see. With consistent themes of injustice, black women as figures of strength, and the mother and child bond in her works, she has disproven the contention that only white subjects have universality; her pieces have become regarded as art that all humanity can appreciate, regardless of ethnicity. Catlett creates her three-dimensional pieces in a variety of mediums, including stone, bronze, terra cotta, marble and wood.

Born in Washington, D.C., the granddaughter of slaves, Catlett received her BA from Howard University where she studied and interacted with leading black artists and art historians, including James Porter, James Wells, Lois Mailou Jones, James Herring and Alzono Aden. At the University of Iowa, where she earned the first Master of Fine Arts degree to be awarded by that institution, she studied with Grant Wood, head of the art department, and was influenced in her sculpture pieces by his concept of regionalism and the common thread that joins people. It is from Wood she got the direction with which she has lived by her entire career: to do her art about what she knew best - her own people.

Catlett also studied ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago and later moved to New York, where she worked privately with French sculptor, Ossip Zadkine, and learned lithography at the Art Students League.

Catlett moved to Mexico in the late 1940’s where she continued to study ceramics with Francisco Zuniga and woodcarving with Jose L. Ruiz at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura. She became a member, along with her husband, Mexican artist Francisco Mora, of the nationalist art center, El Taller de Grafica Popular, founded in 1937 by Luis Arenal, Leopoldo Mendez, and Pablo O’Higgins. Here she worked with muralists, including Diego Rivera, and remained a member of the Taller until 1966.

In 1958, Catlett began teaching sculpture at Mexico’s National University School of Fine Arts and soon became the first woman director of the school’s sculpture department. Since her retirement from teaching in 1976, she has devoted herself completely to her art.

Despite the admiration and respect she received in Mexico’s art community, it was not until she first exhibited at the June Kelly Gallery that she began gaining similar stature in the United States. Afterward, the Metropolitan Museum, the Wadsworth Athenaeum and the Baltimore Museum of Art purchased her work, and in 1998 she was given a 50-year retrospective at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, New York.

Since winning her first prize in sculpture at the 1940 American Negro Exposition in Chicago for a Mother and Child figure, Elizabeth Catlett has been the recipient of many other awards in sculpture and printmaking throughout her career.

Catlett’s work has been seen in numerous one-person and group shows throughout the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Her work is represented in many national and international museum collections, including the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; the Museum of Modern Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; New Orleans Museum of Art; The Narodniko Musea (National Museum) Prague, Czech Republic; and El Museo de Arte, Mexico.

About the ISC and the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award

The International Sculpture Center (ISC) advances the creation and understanding of sculpture and its unique, vital contribution to society. In addition to its extensive member benefits and services, the ISC’s programs include the International Sculpture Conferences, Sculpture magazine, education and recognition programs and the award-winning website The ISC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

The ISC’s Board of Directors established the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991 to recognize individual sculptors who have made exemplary contributions to the field of sculpture. Candidates for the award are masters of sculptural processes and techniques who have devoted their careers to the development of a laudable body of sculptural work as well as to the advancement of the sculpture field as a whole. Past recipients are Louise Bourgeois, Sir Anthony Caro, John Chamberlain, Eduardo Chillida, Mark di Suvero, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Gio' Pomodoro, Robert Rauschenberg, George Rickey, George Segal and Kenneth Snelson.

Watch April's issue of Sculpture Magazine for Michael Brenson's interview with Elizabeth Catlett.
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