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PAFA acquires California press’ prints by African American artists

In addition to prints from Paulson Fontaine Press, PAFA announced acquisition of nearly 40 other paintings, sculptures, drawings, and etchings.

Detail from "Passing By" (2007) an etching by Gee's Bend, Ala., artist Mary Lee Bendolph, one of the prints acquired by PAFA from Paulson Fontaine Press.
Detail from "Passing By" (2007) an etching by Gee's Bend, Ala., artist Mary Lee Bendolph, one of the prints acquired by PAFA from Paulson Fontaine Press.Read moreCourtesy of PAFA

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has acquired more than 100 prints produced by African American artists for the West Coast publisher Paulson Fontaine Press, along with 40 other works for its permanent collection, officials have announced.

"With the acquisition of these prints, PAFA is positioned to become the East Coast archive of works on paper by African American artists from that press," said Jodi Throckmorton, PAFA curator of contemporary art. Paulson Fontaine is based in Berkeley, Calif. The West Coast repository of its prints is the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.

"This collection of prints represents some of the most important artists working today," Throckmorton said. "The Paulson Fontaine Press is one of the most experimental presses and that is evident in the quality of the 129 prints we acquired."

She said the relationship between PAFA and Paulson Fontaine will be ongoing.

Featured artists include Radcliffe Bailey, McArthur Binion, Kerry James Marshall, artists from Gee's Bend, Ala., and Gary Simmons.

The other acquisitions include paintings, sculpture, etchings, and drawings, among them seven sculptures from John Rhoden (1918-2001). In January, PAFA took over responsibility for more than 275 works by Rhoden and appointed Brittany Webb as curator of the collection.

>> READ MORE: PAFA gets 278 John Rhoden sculptures and a new role as keeper of his legacy

The latest group of purchases, announced by the museum's collections committee, includes a large plaster Maquette for the Pennsylvania Railroad War Memorial (1948), by American sculptor Walker Hancock (1901-88).

Hancock, one of the Monuments Men who recovered artworks looted by the Nazis, was a PAFA alumnus and later chaired the school's sculpture department. His Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial stands within 30th Street Station.

PAFA also announced acquisition of  Morris Heights, N.Y. City (1912) by May Howard Jackson (1877-1931).

"Jackson is the first known African American woman to attend PAFA and received a full scholarship in 1895 to do so," said Anna O. Marley, PAFA's curator of historical American art. She said this is the first work by Jackson to enter the permanent collection.

Many of the new acquisitions will be on view at PAFA this summer in the exhibition Infinite Spaces: Rediscovering PAFA's Permanent Collection — including the Walker Hancock maquette, or sculptural study, and a charcoal portrait of Shirley Lewis Gerald  by artist Violet Oakley.

PAFA officials said the total cost of the acquisitions was about $569,000.