Walter Feldman’s affiliation with Brown University began in 1953, when he taught his first class in visual design. It extended through his fifty-four-year teaching career, and it continues today in a legacy of sustained artistic experimentation. This memorial exhibition celebrates Feldman’s life through a retrospective selection of his artworks. We begin with a painting dated 1946—a macabre image of a skeleton-faced soldier, made shortly after he returned from service after World War II. War and the Holocaust cast a long shadow over Feldman’s work, a fact attested to by the most recent painting in the exhibition, Memorial X from 2014. However, between these two works, there are many more that testify to the joy that he found in family and nature, poetry and music, and teaching, and the sustenance that his artistic practice provided.
Feldman was of his time, working within stylistic modes from German expressionism to abstract expressionism and color field painting. Certain subjects, returned to over time, became signatures of his oeuvre: letters as forms and means of communication, Don Quixote, steles, Mesoamerican warriors, and biblical narratives.
He worked in a wide range of mediums, experimenting while expanding his command of techniques: there are paintings in egg tempera, gouache, oil, and acrylic; drawings in pencil, pen, and acetylene torch; mosaics and stained glass; silkscreens, woodcuts, etchings, and lithographs; mixed media sculpture, collages applied in paper and pigment or imbedded in handmade paper, and hand-set letterpress books.
Interest in all manner of illustrated books occupied Feldman from the 1980s on. He founded Ziggurat Press in 1990 and produced an extensive body of handsome, handset, small-edition books. Some were created in concert with distinguished contemporary poets—such as C. D. Wright, Michael Harper, James Schevill, George Monteiro and Denise Levertov. Others are more personal. In Quiet Words, for instance, Feldman celebrated poems written by his six-year-old grandniece, while Summer 1989 and 02837-1412: a memoir present remembrances of the home he shared with his wife Barbara in Little Compton.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Walter Feldman was born in 1925 in Lynn, Massachusetts. He attended Yale University, where he studied with Willem de Kooning and Josef Albers. His first one-person exhibition was held at Artist’s Gallery in New York in 1953. Throughout his career, Feldman’s works were included in numerous one-person and group exhibitions at major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY. He created public art works in Providence, including mosaics at Temple Beth-el, Miriam Hospital, and Temple Emanu-el, and stained-glass windows at the Sugarman Memorial Chapel.