Art Beat: the artist’s studio

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In 1976, then an art student Ken released won a grant from the Ford Foundation to create a series of ten intaglio prints.

Mentored by Curtis Rhodes, a professor at Western Michigan University who founded the university’s collection of prints, Freed took the subject of the artist’s studio as his muse. He went to New York to visit the studios of ten well-known artists, captured them in his prints, and then added textual elements, small images and Egyptian symbols to their borders.

“I was a student in printmaking, and there was a French artist, Félix Hilaire Buhot (1847-1898). He started to create these beautiful prints, ”says Freed. “Then he did all kinds of little pictures and things in the sidelines. I really liked the informality it brings to the prints, having some margins in the plate itself that you can write or draw on. And so I adopted that for this series. Freed visited the New York studios of Lowell Nesbitt, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, Philip Pearlstein, Louise Nevelson, Richard J. Haas, William S. Haney, Stephen Woodburn, Hiroshi Murata and Robert Indiana. Their studios ranged from modest to luxurious. The largest of all belonged to Nesbitt.

“Nesbitt was an extremely successful painter in 1976, when I visited,” says Freed. When I rang and stepped into the atrium, there was a swimming pool, which I later found out to be the largest private pool in New York City. He had bought the old mounted police stable, so it had four floors. There was a four story atrium, rooftop entertainment area, his studio, and living space. It was called “the old stable”.

As one artist introduced Freed to another, he accumulated footage from all ten studios. Later, over a year, he spent time adding pictures, symbols and other markings to the margins. In March 2020, Freed donated the prints to the WMU Art Collection.

Ken Freed moved from Ohio to Battle Creek, Michigan when he was 14. He started painting a year later and was the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Battle Creek Art Center. Freed received a BA in Arts from Davidson College, an MA from SUNY Oswego, and an MA from Western Michigan University. As a professional artist, Freed has exhibited in many parts of the country and won over thirty awards in competitions. He taught at the Kirk Newman School of the Kalamazoo Institute of Art for three decades.

Ten of Ken Freed’s artist studio prints are in exhibition at the Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery at Western Michigan University until May 22, 2021.

Listen to the WMUK Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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