October 4, 2012 at 11:52 AM

From the Faraway Nearby, No. 2

“Isa and Ivan Barnett in Philadelphia exhibition…”

By Tom Maguire

Culture Vulture

Tom Maguire is a musician, arts supporter and a guy who travels the Southwest in a 13’ Scamp trailer, because he couldn’t figure out how the tent poles went together.

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"Generation to Generation” is an exhibition and a life-story tribute to renowned Philadelphia/Santa Fe artist and illustrator Isa Barnett, who received a Diploma in Illustration in 1943 from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, now  the University of the Arts (UArts), by his artist son Ivan, who also majored in illustration, receiving a Bachelors of Fine Arts from UArts in 1969.

Remembered as an esteemed and influential teacher at UArts, Barnett was an artist in the tradition of the Brandywine School, which combined illustration and painting. Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth were also members of the school.

“Generation to Generation” features a wide range of works by Barnett—including paintings, drawings, historical illustrations and photographs—as well as contemporary mixed media by Ivan. Archival photos and writings, gathered by Ivan, help to tell their intimate father-son story. All works in the exhibition are on loan from private collections.  To tell Isa’s story, the exhibition is divided into discrete sections: “A Passion for History”, “Making a Living”, “The West”, “Teaching Us to See” and “Family Life”. Ivan’s work is presented in its own section: “Ivan Barnett -- Artist and Gallery Owner”.

At the same time, approximately 75 artworks by Barnett will be offered for sale, in partnership with Newman Galleries.  Ranging from large-framed paintings to small drawings, in a wide range of media, all are from the Barnett family collection.  Many have never before been seen in public.  A portion of the proceeds of all sales through December 31 will benefit student scholarships at UArts, further honoring Barnett. Always an educator and mentor, he served as an esteemed, influential and inspirational faculty member at the university for two decades.

Throughout his more than 60 years as an artist, he produced works in all media, including, oil, charcoal, pen and ink, acrylic, bronze, watercolor, marble and calligraphy. In later years he became fascinated with the medium of pastel, his “vehicle for spontaneity” in painting both landscape and still life, in the East and in New Mexico.

His illustrations appeared on covers and inside the Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, Readers' Digest, Life and American Heritage. He also produced illustrations for Random House and a series for Bantam Books, and created works for the 1964 New York World's Fair, Valley Forge National Historical Park, the Gettysburg Museum, and the Franklin Mint, as well as art stamps for the Museum Council of the United Nations.

After a trip to the Southwest, Barnett fell in love with the unique beauty of the region and with the pageantry of the Pueblo Indians of northern New Mexico; both greatly influenced his work, which often featured rich colors that reflected the grandeur of the landscape

Barnett approached life with endless curiosity and appreciation for the world around him— from World War II to Vietnam to the Philadelphia suburbs, from commercial work in advertising to historical illustration, brilliant landscapes and the Matachine dancers of northern New Mexico. “My father saw beauty and stories in everything around him,” said Ivan. “He loved American history and especially the Native American peoples of the Southwest.”

Ivan Barnett was five when he decided to become an artist and has dedicated his life to that goal. His remembers a childhood imbued with art. His father, Isa Barnett, was a prominent illustrator and painter and their home was often a gathering place for other artists and writers. Of the three brothers in the Barnett family, Ivan is the one who followed his father around in his studio  – attended UArts -- and became a fine artist, inspired by his father.

Ivan works in many capacities, including artist, advisor, writer and gallery director. As director of Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, he partners with his wife, Allison Buchsbaum-Barnett, also an artist. The two have established Patina as an important venue for the exhibition of fine art jewelry and craft, and a destination for an international clientele of collectors.

Ivan’s most recent work features wall pieces, mobiles and garden stakes composed of stylized symbols, human and animal forms cut from fine gauged, oxidized steel. By first cutting shapes from the sheets and arranging them in layers, Barnett builds up assemblages, or collages, rich with metaphor and life. Pigments are mixed, then applied, unifying the whole with line and color.

Ivan’s signature works blend the folk tradition of his native Pennsylvania with strong, contemporary design. He is recognized as one of the first modern American craft artists to revive and interpret traditional American folk forms and is one of the few living artists represented in the Alexander Girard Collection of Santa Fe’s Museum of International Folk Art.

The wide range of works by Isa Barnett and contemporary, mixed media works by Ivan Barnett  will be on view at UArts from October 17th through November 26th

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