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Release: March 24, 2000

UI will honor printmaker Mauricio Lasansky with film screening and concert April 9

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa will honor emeritus faculty member and pioneering printmaker Mauricio Lasansky with a reception hosted by UI President Mary Sue Coleman at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9 in the UI Museum of Art.

The reception will be preceded by a 1 p.m. program honoring Lasansky and featuring a documentary video about Lasansky's monumental "Nazi Drawings" series in the Levitt Center for University Advancement; and a 2 p.m. concert of music inspired by the "Nazi Drawings," in the Museum of Art.

All events will be free and open to the public.

One of the UI's most distinguished and honored faculty members, Lasansky was the 14th recipient of the Iowa Award, the State of Iowa's highest citizen award, given by Gov. Tom Vilsack in October 1999. The award, bestowed by the Iowa Centennial Foundation, is given approximately every five years. Past recipients have included Herbert Hoover, cartoonist Jay N. Darling, UI space scientist James Van Allen, pollster and UI alumnus George Gallup, composer Meredith Willson and opera singer Simon Estes, another UI alumnus.

A native of Argentina, Mauricio Lasansky came to the United States in 1943 on a Guggenheim Fellowship to study printmaking in New York City. He joined the UI art faculty in 1945 and established the first Master of Fine Arts program in printmaking in an American university. As his students spread around the country, his successful and influential program became the model for printmaking programs and workshops at many other colleges and universities.

In 1967 Lasansky was named Virgil M. Hancher Professor of Art, and he attained emeritus status in 1984. The Museum of Art has a separate room devoted to the display of Lasansky's works. His art has appeared in more than 80 one-man exhibitions since 1943 and is currently housed in more than 75 museums and galleries worldwide.

"The Nazi Drawings" is a series of pencil, wash and earth-color drawings with collage that examine the brutality of Nazi Germany. The 30 drawings and one triptych in the set are very large, with life-sized figures. They were created in 1966 to international acclaim.

Commenting on the subject of these works, Lasansky has said, "Dignity is not a symbol bestowed upon a man, nor does the word itself possess force. Man's dignity is a force and the only modus vivendi by which man and his history survive. When mid-20th-century Germany did not let man live and die with this right [of dignity], man became an animal."

"The Nazi Drawings," a 25-minute documentary video by Lane Wyrick, will receive its public premiere during the 1 p.m. event honoring Lasansky. The video features narration by UI Theatre Arts faculty member Eric Forsythe and original music by UI Music faculty member David Gompper. The video has been selected as a finalist in all five categories in which it was entered for the Iowa Film Awards, "Showcase Iowa 2000": Documentary, Editing -- Long form, Entertainment -- Short form, Original Music Score and Voice Over Narration.

The documentary combines Forsythe's narration with views of the drawings, historical photographs of Lasansky, concentration camp footage and interviews with Lasansky, historian/poet Edwin Honig, and Richard S. Levitt. The Richard Levitt Foundation owns "The Nazi Drawings," which are on long-term loan to the UI Museum of Art.

The program for the 2 p.m. concert will comprise the world premiers of music inspired by Lasansky's "Nazi Drawings" and written specifically for the occasion by faculty and students of the School of Music. The performance will be presented by the UI Center for New Music, under the direction of David Gompper.

In September 1999, music faculty members and composition students visited the Museum of Art to see the "Nazi Drawings." On a subsequent visit, the composers were able to see the entire series. In the words of Jeremy Dale Roberts, visiting professor of composition, the two visits "made a penetrating and disturbing impression."

"Not only thematically but also technically, Lasansky's work has struck a powerful chord with a number of composers," he wrote afterwards. "It has been interesting to note the varieties of musical medium, form and idiom that have been brought to bear upon the project" one of the first to appear was a piece for tape; various chamber ensembles followed; and a setting for two voices of a text by a student in the Playwrights' Workshop opened up the perspective even further."

The complete program features nine new pieces: "Wieglied" (Lullaby) for solo viola by Roberts; "Theodicy" for clarinet, viola and cello by Christopher Brakel; "Gregor" for violin. Cello and double bass by Alexandre Lunsqui; ". . . und im gleichen Mutter-Raum treibt es und west seine innige Zeit . . ." for chamber ensemble by Albin Jones; "On the Nazi Drawing #15 by Mauricio Lasansky" for clarinet, saxophone and cello, by Erin Gee; "Disquiet Meditation" for electronic tape by Michael Cash; "Planctus" for string quartet by Matthew Ertz; "Catacombs" for two singers and piano by Vatchara Vichikul, a setting of a text by Stephen Frattali; and "Tango" for piano by School of Music faculty member Michael Eckert.

A flexible organization devoted to the performance of music composed in the 20th century, the Center for New Music is directed by David Gompper, a faculty member in the theory and composition area of the UI School of Music. Membership in the center's performing ensemble includes both faculty and students of the School of Music.

The center was founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center promotes the performance of new music by providing a core group of specialists in contemporary performance techniques. Its programming has included world premieres as well as acknowledged contemporary masterworks. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI School of Music.

In November 1998 an east-coast tour by the center included a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City. Critic Paul Griffiths opened his New York Times review of the concert by observing that "an ensemble of faculty and graduate students from the University of Iowa performed strongly Tuesday night," and he praised Gompper for "the concert's clarity and directness."

The "Nazi Drawings" video documentary contains graphic content that may be considered unsuitable for children.

The Levitt Center for University Advancement is located at 1 West Park Road, just north of Hancher Auditorium.

The UI Museum of Art is located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum. Information on Mauricio Lasansky may be found on the internet at http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/lasansky_mauricio.html.