Gallery spotlight: Ahlgren & Margulies

As a component of the exhibition, A Chicken in Every Pot and Affordable Art in Every Home, group curated by Dr. Slipp’s Spring 2021 Museum Studies class, student were assigned two prints each. They researched the artworks and wrote catalogue entries and labels for adults and children. Sticking to a tight word count, students produced different kinds of writing for different audiences.

The texts below were authored by AUM student Ron Blaesing

Roy Ahlgren (American, 1927-2011)

Infinity, 1970

Serigraph 220/250, 9.75 x 9.75 inches

Label for Adults – Like most of Roy Ahlgren’s serigraphs, Infinity focuses on line in repeating and diminishing form. By using straight lines instead of the looping figures we are accustomed to, Ahlgren subverts our preestablished idea of what infinity can be. By using slightly heavier and daker lines for one of the two prominent openings, he has split open the vacuum of the universe filling it with millions of choices. He encourages audiences to examine the vast array of possibilities that lay ahead of us every day.

Label for Kids – Infinity gives the illusion of 2 never-ending tunnels, mirror opposites of each other, made up 100s of tiny squares that we can see. But, if you could travel down either of these tunnels there would be 1000s upon 1000s more, each one opening to a brand-new tunnel filled with infinite options to choose from.

Catalogue entry  Born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1927, Roy Ahlgren was principally a self-taught painter and printmaker. He attended the University of Pittsburg where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Art Education. Returning to his hometown, Ahlgren went to work for Marx Toy Company as a toy designer where his love of line, pattern, and limitless possibility became evident.

In 1964, Ahlgren began experimenting with op art and hard-edged geometric patterns. He worked predominantly in this style into the 1980s when he began doing more literal representational paintings.

Throughout the years Ahlgren’s work has been exhibited at the National Academy of Design, Library of Congress, and the Boston Printmakers Annual Exhibition and won over 60 prizes including purchase awards from the Seattle Art Museum and the Mississippi art Association.

Sources Consulted

“Roy Algren: obituary,”

Joseph Margulies (Austrian, 1896-1984)

Breton Sailor at Rest, 1937

Etching, 14 x 17 inches

Label for Adults – Breton Sailor at Rest is one of numerous etchings by Joseph Margulies of old sailors and fisherman. An exceptional painter and lithographer, Margulies’ finest talent lay in soft ground etchings. By using a soft or liquid ground he was able to create lines that appeared as if they were actual pencil drawings in his prints. The heavy blacks in the folds of the fisherman’s coat suggest the use of a bold pencil, while the soft cross hatching on his face creates stunning detail in this rendering of a weathered sailor.

Label for Kids – Breton Sailor at Rest is a portrait of a worn old man looking into the distance, but at what? The variety of line thickness creates shadow and texture over his weathered face. Where has he been and what has he seen to cause him to look away with such emptiness?

Catalogue entry  Born in Vienna, Austria in 1896, Joseph Margulies immigrated to America with his parents to escape Jewish persecution in Eastern Europe. He, like many other Jewish immigrants, found a new home in New York City.   

In 1922, he began his studies at the Art Students’ League under Joseph Pennell, a master in etching and lithography. Moving back to Europe, Margulies went on to study at the Ecole des Beaux and the National Academy of Design in Paris. Upon returning to America, Margulies took up residence in East Gloucester, Massachusetts, a coastal fishing community, which likely inspired many of his renderings of fisherman. Similarly, his many years studying in France would have given Margulies exposure to the Breton fisherman and sailors of northwest France.

In 1936 Margulies began working with Associated American Artists, which was founded by Reeves Lewenthal two years prior. In his thirty years with the AAA, he contributed numerous etchings but none as relevant to his heritage as the four etchings of a religious subjects. Jewish themed art, or religious works in general, were not the norm for the AAA, but the way Margulies represented that segment of the American everyman needed to be seen. Throughout his life Joseph Margulies was commissioned to paint Presidents Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Nixon, and Hoover, and Albert Einstein.

Sources Consulted

Joseph Margulies,

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