Work of internationally-recognized American artist Gilbert Franklin opening at CI
“The Bridge at the End of the Road” art exhibit at CSU Channel Islands (CI)’s John Spoor Broome Library Gallery gets its name from a series of paintings the American artist Gilbert Franklin worked on for about 20 years.
Irina B. Costache, Ph.D., Professor of Art and co-curator of the show, considered the subject of these paintings a perfect metaphor for the internationally-known artist’s long and productive career.
“This is an artist who created pieces that speak to the entire journey of art,” Costache said. “Because that’s what it is: a journey. Art is always a road, but at the end there is a bridge, so there is really no end.”
The retrospective of Franklin’s works from 1945 to 1967 opens in the Broome Gallery on Oct. 14 and runs through Nov. 27 with an opening reception on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 5:30 to 7 p.m., which includes introductory remarks by Italian art historian Giovanna Giusti, Ph.D., Distinguished Scholar in Residence at CI this fall.
Franklin’s daughter, Nina Berson, co-curator of the show who will also speak at the reception, has fond memories around the bridge, which is on Cape Cod, where the family spent the summers.
“It’s a tidal road and at high tide, you can’t get to the bridge because the bridge is under water,” she said.
Berson, the only child of Gilbert and Joyce Franklin, had a rich childhood growing up on Rhode Island, regularly spending months in Rome, Italy, where Franklin was one of an elite group of artists and scholars accepted to the prestigious American Academy in Rome.
“He was in the first group of artists who came to study at the American Academy after World War II,” Costache said.
Franklin was the only American Academy fellow to bring his wife and daughter along with him to Rome. Berson remembers eating Italian food, learning the language, watching puppet shows in the park and attending the original Montessori School, Casa dei Bambini.
His time in Rome exchanging ideas with fellow artists made a lasting impression on Franklin. In Rome and in Rhode Island, Franklin was prolific, creating bronze sculptures, wooden figurines, paintings, and notebook-sized sketches, to name a few examples of his work. The human form, both stylized and realistic, is a recurring theme in his work.
“The play with textures and materials, a key element of Franklin’s sculptural work, is subtly and effectively echoed in paintings and drawings where earth tones are juxtaposed with strong outlines,” Costache said.
Berson and her dad were close, spending hours together at work and play.
“He was a bear of a guy. Very warm, and I adored him,” Berson said. “I was in the studio with him and he took me fishing.”
After his death from cancer in 2004, Berson, a professional art historian, began cataloguing his work and showing it around the country. The CI exhibit is the first retrospective ever on the West Coast.
“He left me with 10 loose leaf binders of slides. I said ‘Dad, these aren’t labeled or dated’, and he said ‘That’s your job. You’re an art historian,” Berson remembers.
Berson’s labor of love has taken 10 years so far, and continues, but she knows her father’s legacy is well worth it.
Part II of the exhibit will feature Franklin’s works from 1968 to 2004 and will open on Nov. 1 and run through Jan. 28, 2017 at the Jose Drudis-Biada Art Gallery on the Chalon campus of Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles.
About California State University Channel Islands
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