The Grand Hand is thrilled to be working with the estate of painter, printmaker and educator Malcolm Myers (1917 – 2002) to bring a selection of paintings by this important Minnesota artist to our customers. Malcolm, a University of Minnesota (U of M) professor of art for over 50 years, is appreciated for his genial compositions and his knowing use of color.
Malcolm’s work is recognizable for its unique imagery, notably his emblematic depictions of all species of animal. Although he was focused primarily on intaglio, or etching and engraving techniques, Malcolm worked through both painting and prints when pursuing a series and revisited signature themes over the years, In the studio, he was influenced by the rhythms of jazz, stating, ““I change the lines and shapes – usually many times – until I feel some image that I like is emerging. I have been a devotee of progressive jazz for a long time and like to think that my attitude about executing a print has something in common with the improvisational aspects of good jazz music.” Accordingly, unexpected line impressions and thumbprints would often be accepted and incorporated into the work.
The artist exhibited a passion for drawing at an early age, recalling cowboys and horses as favorite subjects, forms that would return in his mature work, along with other animal motifs. “I have a deep respect for animals, birds – all living things – which I attempt to convey in many of my prints,” he explained. “I try to show the uniqueness of creatures that I portray. This very possibly may be the influence of my early reading of books about Peter Rabbit, Danny Meadow Mouse, and Blacky the Crow.”
After graduating from Wichita State University, Malcolm served in the merchant marine at the end of WWII then spent time exploring the art scene in New York City. In 1948, he earned an MFA from the University of Iowa, where he was a teaching assistant to influential printmaker Mauricio Lasansky. Lasansky was the central figure of the Iowa Print Group, promoting the use of allegory, mythology and abstraction executed by intaglio techniques. At a time when universities were recruiting art faculty to meet the influx of post-war GI Bill students, Lasansky mentored printmaker-educators who would spread his influence nationwide. Malcolm, in turn, took a position at the University of Minnesota after his graduation. Over the ensuing years, he initiated a print department, was a developer of the graduate program in art, and served as department chair at the U of M.
In the 1950s, the artist received two Guggenheim Fellowships that took him to Paris – where he met Joan Miro and took the opportunity travel throughout Europe, and to Mexico – where he worked with Diego Rivera and began a collection of pre-Columbian art.
Throughout the 1960s, concurrent with the rise of Pop Art, Op Art, and Minimalism, Malcolm maintained ties to more classical modes and representational, although abstracted, forms. Printmaking was booming, as painters and sculptors were becoming increasingly interested in print applications as a means to presenting their ideas in accessible editions. As an educator, Malcolm organized a series of print workshops for artists, contributing to a national movement towards collaborative learning in the field. Malcolm’s former student, the painter-printmaker James Rosenquist, recalls returning to the U to make his first etching at one of these workshops in 1961. In a 1967 exhibition catalog, Malcolm stated “Printmaking is a way for artists to express an idea and is unique only in that the techniques and methods are different from, say, painting and sculpture. It offers to the artist only what the artist is capable of doing with it. I find it an exciting and satisfying medium, and I feel that many young people at the U of M who have investigated printmaking and produced prints have added to the growing art stature of our country.”
In 1982, the University Gallery at the U of M presented a one-man survey of Malcolm’s prints, from student to late career, in a variety of techniques. In her introduction to “Mr. Possum & Friends: Prints by Malcolm Myers,” Gallery Director Lyndel King called Malcolm “an artistic institution at the U of M (who) approaches printmaking as he seems to approach life, with a witty, yet almost laconic sensibility.” Curator Charles Paul Helsell stated, “Full of whimsy, these works portray creatures in human dress, engaged in human activities – at first glance they amuse us; as we study them, however they become subtle reminders of the uneasy coexistence of man and animal … We see active in all of Myers’ works a vivid imagination, a keen sense of composition, form and line, and a refined handling of color relationships. His works affect the viewer in an almost offhand, disarming way, so that initially one is only partially aware of the refreshing enjoyment and deep pleasure they provide.”
Malcolm’s work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including a 1996 retrospective “Malcolm H Myers: Five Decades of Paintings & Prints” at the U of M’s Katherine E. Nash Gallery. It is represented in collections including those of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota Historical Society, General Mills, 3M, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, New York Public Library, Museum of Modern Art, Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.