(Mazeikiai, Lithuania, 1909 - 1996, Friedrichshafen, Germany)
On June 9, in preparation for the summer 2011 Lockhart exhibition Alfonsas Dargis: Two Decades of Paintings and Prints (1950–1970), Rochester artist, Alice Gold, was invited in to look at the works in the exhibition and talk about her experiences as a student and friend of Alfonsas Dargis.
Ms. Gold asserted that when she was working with Dargis in the 1980s, he used primarily commercial printer’s inks diluted with turpentine (resulting in more translucent passages of paint) and commercial house paints (this accounts for the opaque passages of color) on commercial rice paper purchased from a shop in Rochester called, Economy Paper (for example, 70.66.1-.3). She believed he preferred the commercial paints because of the colors available. He also frequently used clay-coated papers that he would etch into, then paint, then wipe away (for example 64.83).
When asked if Dargis conveyed to her any of his overriding philosophies about art, creation, color, etc., Ms. Gold did not recall anything she could speak to. She remembered him generally being dismissive of any of the more theoretical approaches to art – his approach to color and design was intuitive. However, he greatly revered modern artists like Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso. And in regards to prehistoric cave paintings, he would say, “Now, THAT is art!”
Ms. Gold’s memory of Dargis was as an extremely confidant artist and a skillful self-promoter. He taught classes in the basement studio of his apartment on Barrington Street, and he did not stand for much questioning from his students. Dargis was resourceful and inventive in regards to technique. He liked the process of transfer drawing. He would first do the transfer drawing and then add to the composition with paint. He would also do prints with the lined part of corrugated cardboard (MAG does not have any examples of this in the collection). A strong, solid composition was his forte.
With his mastery of color, composition, and technique, Lithuanian-born Rochester artist Alfonsas Dargis created abstract visions that are by turn poetic, ethereal, bold, and inspired. His unique vision fused elements of Lithuanian folk art, African sculpture, prehistoric cave paintings, and the modernist styles of artists like Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso.
Born in Reivyciai in 1909, Dargis received his art training at the Kaunas School of Art and later won a state scholarship to the Vienna Academy of Arts. In 1940 he returned to Lithuania to find the Soviets in control and his work branded and destroyed as “capitalistic” art. In 1941 he fled to Germany and in 1951 he moved to Rochester where, within five months of his arrival, he had a one-man exhibition at the Memorial Art Gallery. A decade later Dargis was honored with the Jurors’ Award Show at MAG and received the University of Rochester’s Lillian Fairchild Award, given annually in recognition of an artist’s creative output.
Alfonsas Dargis was a force in the Rochester art community for over thirty years where he taught students and created a community of like-minded artists called Forma Studio.He sold almost 1,500 paintings and prints here in Rochester before he retired to West Germany. In addition to the paintings owned by the Memorial Art Gallery, Dargis’ work is represented in Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Lithuanian Art Museum, among others.