July 11 - August 23, 2008
Corbett vs. Dempsey is pleased to present the first one-person exhibition of Frank Vavruska’s work in nearly 40 years.
Frank Vavruska was born in 1917 in Antigo, Wisconsin, to Czech parents. He studied art at University of Wisconsin (1935-38) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1938-41), where he took a BFA and was awarded the Ryerson Traveling Fellowship, which enabled him to paint and travel in Mexico (1941-42, again 1945-46). While hospitalized in England in the US Army during WWII, Vavruska produced many paintings which were the basis for a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1945. In 1947, a painting of his (“Cows in a Tropical Landscape”) was selected for the important Abstraction & Surrealism in American Art exhibition, curated by Frederick Sweet and Katharine Kuh at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the piece was reproduced in the show’s catalog.
Primarily based in Chicago, Vavruska was a nomad at heart. He worked for two years in the Yucatan Peninsula, was commissioned to make a mural for the Archeological Museum in Campeche, and developed an avid interest in the archeological richness of the region. Vavruska lived in Europe for six years, mainly in southern France, and he traveled in North Africa, Italy, Paris, and spent a year in London. In the late ’40s, his work began to shift from its expressionist and cubist figurative basis – incorporating elements from Miro, Picasso, and Klee, as well as Kahlo and Rivera – towards a purer form of abstraction, and his work from the early ’50s bears some resemblance to the work of CoBrA artists of Northern Europe, some of which he may have seen at the time. The other point of reference during this fertile period, in which Vavruska temporarily relocated from Chicago to New York, are the totemic abstractions of Adolph Gottlieb. Vavruska’s beautiful, rough abstract paintings were included in exhibitions at the Metropolitan (American Painting Today, 1950), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1957), Madison Square Garden (Art U.S.A., 1958), and elsewhere. Much too young, Vavruska died in 1974, age 56.