116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Creations by married artists who work side by side will be shown side by side for the first time in “Tomas and Charlie Lasansky: An Artistic Union,” on view Saturday through Sept. 11, at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
The exhibition features 44 of their works, showing the vast array of styles, sizes and media with which they work at their 10,500-square-foot studio and gallery in Iowa City.
The Lasansky name and legacy is well known at home and abroad.
Viewers familiar with the family’s artistry will see similarities in technique and scope, which began with Tomas’ father, pioneering printmaker Mauricio Lasansky, who died April 2, 2012, at age 97.
Born in Buenos Aires, Mauricio Lasansky came to the University of Iowa in 1945 and revolutionized the school’s printmaking program, putting it on the world stage. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art has four permanent galleries showcasing his works on the second floor, and describes him as “one of the most important and innovative printmakers in the 20th century.”
In 2016, the museum mounted a solo exhibition by third-generation artist Diego Lasansky, across from his grandfather’s galleries on the second floor. That allowed viewers to dive deeper into the traditions that continue to influence him as he works out of his grandfather’s studio and gallery in downtown Iowa City, using Mauricio’s antique press. Diego grew up immersed in this realm, learning from his grandfather and his uncle, Tomas.
And while the Cedar Rapids museum owns works by three generations of the family, which have been included in themed exhibitions over the years, now a double spotlight is turning on Tomas, born in 1957 as the youngest of six artistic siblings, and his wife, Charlie, born in 1960.
It’s an exhibition a long time in the making, said Kate Kunau, the museum’s curator, since its targeted date fell during the pandemic. Now the time is right to show these works in the three large galleries on the museum’s first floor.
A companion book has been created for the exhibition, but Kunau said supply chain demands for paper have delayed printing. Eventually, the book will be placed in the galleries and sold in the museum’s bookstore.
What: “Tomas and Charlie Lasansky: An Artistic Union”
Where: Three first-floor galleries, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, 410 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: June 4 to Sept. 11, 2022
Hours: noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday; noon to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $8 adults; $7 ages 62 and up, and college students; $4 ages 6 to 18; free ages 5 and under; masked recommended
The couple specialize in figural art, capturing images of family members, pop culture icons, historical figures, leaders, humanitarians, famous writers and artists — from Abraham Lincoln to poet Amanda Gorman, Albert Einstein to Sitting Bull, Moses to Edgar Allan Poe, Maria Callas to Frida Kahlo, and lots of dancers.
“Tomas, of course, learned printmaking from his father, so that’s a big part of his career, as well,” “so there’s a lot of intaglio prints in the (exhibition) collection. He’s really versatile, as well. He does a lot of collage and mixed media works that involve ink and pencil with collage elements on paper.
“He has a particular type of acrylic painting that he likes to do — his splatter technique — so there’s a wonderful example of that in the exhibition. and just some drawings — he’s a wonderful draftsman.”
Likewise, Charlie works in a variety of media.
“Charlie used to do a lot of oil painting, but she stopped doing that when it started affecting her health — just being around all the chemicals, the turpentine,” Kunau said.
“Now she does a lot of mixed media collage, with really beautiful paper folding. And she integrates that with intaglio printing, gouache, acrylic, colored pencil, so hers are really kind of a mixed media extravaganza,” Kunau said. “But her older works that are in the show are primarily oils.”
Kunau didn’t separate out their works on the walls.
“They’re all mixed together, because to me, one of the many interesting things of this exhibition is just comparing their work — comparing their process, their aesthetic style, how they handle the same imagery, how they handle similar imagery,” she said. “I think they’re great critical feedback machines for each other.”
Kunau believes viewers will be able to distinguish their pieces in the exhibition.
“Obviously, I’ve been looking that them for a very long time,” she said, “but they have distinctive styles. In Charlie’s painted works — in her oils from earlier in her career — she is very color-focused and has a loose, free brush stroke.
“And I think Tomas has always been a draftsman at heart. He learned from his father about line and contour and composition.
“It’s interesting to see when Charlie changed media and started doing these mixed media, collage pieces, they still have a very distinctive aesthetic.
“I think you can definitely tell whose is whose very easily.”
The juxtaposition of scale also will give a hint. Like his father, Tomas has some very large works, with the biggest measuring 91.75 inches by 49 inches, and another at 80 inches by 60 inches.
“Charlie doesn’t work small, particularly, but she works smaller than Tomas, so there are more pieces of Charlie’s in the exhibition, but space-wise, it balances out,” Kunau said.
She loves being able to see so much of their process in the collection.
“I’m just fascinated by that,” she said. “Their works are so layered, and there’s just so much to look at in each work. The finished product is always stunning, but I love getting up really close to each of them and seeing exactly how they did this, and how they layered the different media they’re using.
“So I really love being able to see so much process in these works. That’s one of the places where they’re both so strong. They’re both such amazing artists in so many different media in so many different ways, and their works really allow you to see that,” she said.
“It’s really powerful. It’s really wonderful.”
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