Radcliffe Bailey, In the Garden, 2003, color aquatint with color photocopy chine collé and velvet. Courtesy of Paulson Fontaine Press, Berkeley, CA.

Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press

May 08, 2021 - July 18, 2021

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This exciting exhibition features works by 14 African American artists who have helped to shape the contemporary art conversation in the Bay Area and beyond. The show covers a wide range of prints, paintings, quilts, and sculptures, and includes an array of abstract and formal imagery.

Narratives that speak to personal experiences and political perspectives are woven throughout. At the heart of this show is a Berkeley-based fine art print studio—Paulson Fontaine Press—which over the past two decades has developed an unparalleled roster of internationally celebrated artists: artists like Martin Puryear, Kerry James Marshall, and the Gee’s Bend Quilters, who characterize the fresh perspectives that are today’s avant-garde.


Curator’s Statement

There is no singular way to address the conversation of race and representation in contemporary art. Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press presents fourteen artists who capture the personal narratives and political discourses of African Americans across the country, reflecting a collective experience expressed in uniquely individual ways. This powerful exhibition of figurative and abstract artworks channels the poetics of the human experience from past and present and boldly presents ideas about history, identity, personal stories, and spiritual inspiration.

The fine art prints in this exhibition were produced at Paulson Fontaine Press in Berkeley, California, an artistic hub that is known for inviting a diverse group of artists to the studio to create fine art prints. Over their twenty-two years of operation, Paulson Fontaine Press has invited some fifty artists into their studio—many of whom have never before made prints. The printmaking process is a collaborative one; artists are not working alone in their studios, but with a professionally trained staff that can give them ideas about the effect their creative choices will have on the plate, and eventually, the print. For most artists, learning to work outside their own studio, in another space, and with different processes and materials can be exhilarating, frustrating, rewarding, and eye-opening.

Prints are not simply a carbon copy of previous work. To produce these prints, each artist physically etches or chemically alters the plates they’re working on, and they respond to what they see as the plate changes. The work evolves as they make it into a fine art print. It may resemble other work that they have created in their own studios with other media, but the resulting print is unique to that moment and process. We extend heartfelt thanks to Pam Paulson and Rhea Fontaine of Paulson Fontaine Press for their collaboration on this project and for generously lending their prints to the exhibition.

In addition to the forty-four prints from Paulson Fontaine Press, we are thrilled to include a selection of studio works by several of the exhibition artists including paintings, collage, sculpture, and quilts. Taken as a whole, this show offers a rich display of media and material and an expansive approach to art-making. This exhibition also includes a range of artists, from art world giant Martin Puryear, known globally for his elegant abstract sculptural forms, to Lonnie Holley, a self-taught artist who is now a prodigious mixed media master. Personal to Political embraces a wide scope of work defined by history, portraiture, landscape, abstraction, and a hybrid realm when text is merged with a narrative or abstract imagery.

Collectively, the artists in Personal to Political confront the personal and public significance of past and current events while taking a thoughtful approach to a variety of media. The artists have taken aesthetic action in the making of this work, and it reminds us that we can all take action. There are many ways to do this—start by looking inward and considering new and other perspectives. The more we see, the more we know, understand, and appreciate each other’s experiences.

—Carrie Lederer, Curator of Personal to Political

Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press was organized by Carrie Lederer, Curator of Exhibitions, Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, CA.

This exhibition is sponsored by

This exhibition is supported by the following individuals through their gifts to the FWMoA 2020 Annual Fund: Sharon and Ben Eisbart, Sweetwater and Chuck & Lisa Surack, Barbara and John Snider, Fred & Mary Anna Feitler, Clifford and Eve-Lynn Clarke, In Honor of John Madison Fewkes IX, artist, poet, humanitarian and friend, Kathy Callen and John Powell, Mark Troutman and Ann Wallace, Elizabeth Frederick, Dan Hamblin, Morrie Sanderson and Amanda Kinneman, Linda and Wayne Boyd, and three Anonymous donors. 

Curator’s Tour