Friday, December 13, 2013

Rob Leff Shares His Passion for Dean Meeker at the Tweed

Collector Rob Leff
In October the Tweed Museum, located on the campus of UMD, initiated a series of monthly talks focused on various works within the Tweed collection. This week Rob Leff, a local rheumatologist and art collector who with his wife Francis serves on the Tweed board, presented works by print maker and sculptor Dean Meeker.

Leff began by introducing the primary forms of print making – woodcut, lithography, silkscreen, intaglio – in order to lay a foundation for the print works of Dean Meeker. He added to this foundation a bit of Meeker’s biographical background as well as some insights into the manner in which New York became capital of the art world post-WW2.

One way to understand nearly anyone in the arts, whether music, literature or the visual arts, is to become familiar with their influences. For this reason Rob Leff briefly presented the role Stanley W. Hayter played in Meeker’s life.

Hayter was a British printmaker who moved to Paris and founded Atelier 17, one of the most influential art studios in the world. The artists he intersected with is a virtual who’s who of modern art history. He played an enormous role, even if somewhat unheralded by popular recognition. When the war came many Parisian artists and writers fled either to Africa or to the U.S. The net result was a beehive of cutting edge artists making their home in New York and San Francisco, transforming them into two of our country’s most potent cultural centers. Hayter was amongst those who made the States his new home.

Dean Meeker, who was blind in one eye, grew up poor and was a high school dropout. Eventually he ended up in Chicago and managed to get into college on the G.I. Bill, continuing into grad school in order to get his Master’s. At some point Hayter’s influence infected Dean Meeker, who had eventually made his way to Madison, Wisconsin. At that time silk screen was considered a somewhat decadent art, more for posters etc. and not really of the same class as “fine arts.” Meeker’s commitment to print making elevated it into an art form.

'Joseph's Coat"
Silk screen as a form of reproducing images was previously very flat until Meeker met a man named Moh who combined silkscreen and intaglio. The technique gave images more depth.

Later in life though he lost his passion for printmaking and began to make sculpture. His two primary methods were the cut and weld process and the cast process. During the talk we saw examples of both periods of Meeker's life. Leff noted that the sculpture titled Joseph’s Coat was one of six cast pieces that had been individually hand colored.

One of Dean Meeker's themes was horses. He did works based on horses in literature, from the Bible and other influences, including a visit to the Little Big Horn when he was ten. Leff talked especially about "The Horsemen", which appears to be Medieval horsemen. The concept must have fascinated Meeker because he later produced the composition as a cast sculpture.

"The Horsemen"

Rob Leff's appreciation for Meeker's work had a personal aspect. "Dean Meeker was the first artist I ever met where I went to his studio."

Next month, Ann Klefstad is slated to bring us insights on another artist and his or her work. I, for one, am looking forward to it very much. Hope to see you there. 

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