POSKA 2018

Roland Poska

Deckle Edge

Roland Poska Deckle Edge

September 15 - November 3, 2018

Introduction by Jerald L. Melberg Essay by Grace Cote

625 South Sharon Amity Road Charlotte, NC 28211 704.365.3000 gallery@jeraldmelberg.com www.jeraldmelberg.com

Front Cover: DECKLE EDGE-EVENING REFLECTIONS c. 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment

45 x 78 3/4 inches JMG19011 / P010


From a dry deckle edge of a handmade sheet of paper, the idea began to grow.

Through the years when I have added a new artist to the gallery’s stable, I have always tried to do so keeping particular criteria in mind. It is important to me that an artist makes a visual statement which enhances our understanding of ourselves and conveys innovation in the use of material and process. This is obvious in the work of Roland Poska. It is difficult to think of another artist who is so closely associated with making their art using cotton fiber. Poska found his voice in this unusual material. He mixed the fiber with pure powder pigment and water to make pulp in a variety of consistencies, from oatmeal to bread dough. Poska’s labor intensive process of hand-manipulating this material produced works of art of pure beauty. Because he passed away in 2017, I did not have the opportunity tomeet Roland Poska. This past spring I traveled to his home of Rockford, IL, to spend time with his widow Louise and his friend Steve Pitkin, the two individuals who maintained his estate. I wish to thank them for their enthusiasm and trust. I learned that Poska was a man of great character who sought to eliminate our perceived differences in class, economic status and race. He embraced equality and insisted that there was good in everyone. His hope was that all of humanity would, eventually, come to this realization. It is with great pleasure that I now represent the estate of this important artist who influenced so many others. I am pleased and proud to make this introduction and to bring his work to a larger audience. Jerald L. Melberg

Perhaps everything in the universe, indeed the universe itself, is the result of forces forever meeting, or parting.

Where forces meet, or part. From this eternal process, everything springs eternal.

It is from what is unseen that everything manifests itself in continuous shifting forms.

We Meet, We Grow, And We Part.

From nothing to something, the first is incomprehensible, but, so is the second,

the process of creation.

UNTITLED c 1970s Cotton Fiber and Pigment

Roland Poska 2012

108 x 37 1/2 inches JMG19034 / P001L

The Deckle Edge

suite of lithographs, The Great Human Race . These artworks were the manifestation of his dogmatic belief in the excellent potential of humanity. Poska sought to extend and break boundaries of his medium, landing on what he called Papestries or paper tapestries, the artwork featured in this exhibition. These are the result of crafting and composing globs of paper pulp laced with pure powdered pigment onto a flat surface. The size of these works can be quite impressive, with many consisting of multiple panels with intentionally rough and unrefined edges. When viewers look at the gaps between panels they will see a very literal interpretation of two forces meeting and parting. Poska said this gap between panels is the most important thing. The rest is superfluous because I really don’t know if they’re coming apart or going together. Paper pulp can have many different consistencies, from soup to apple sauce to a sticky dough-like texture. Poska worked with pulp formed from moist ground 100% cotton rag fibers, preparing up to 70 five-gallon buckets with varying colors. He laid handfuls onto sheets of plastic, sometimes adding pieces of previously dried pulp from other projects. He would start with pale hues and work his way out toward darker ones, continuing until the proper size and mass was achieved. After drying, Poska would flip the panel over and reveal a flattened yet technicolor abstract composition. He would then assess and sometimes alter the surface by peeling away or overpainting. A sizable work could take up to six months to complete. Because hewas a pioneer in this field, every newadvancement he made was considered noteworthy, though some achievements truly stand out. The Milwaukee Art Center inaugurated its new Bradley wing in 1976 with a Roland Poska solo exhibition. He later completed a 276-foot-wide commission for the mezzanine

of the Henry S. Reuss Federal Plaza in Milwaukee. Titled From Blue to Blue , it is an abstract presentation of the passing of seasons and an astonishing achievement in the medium he spent his life exploring. More solo exhibitions followed, at the Rockford Art Museum, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, the Scottsdale Center for the Arts and the Neville Public Museum, among others. Poska’s advancements in papermaking are profound, and without him the medium would have remained purely technical. Poska reduced paper to its material essence of cotton fiber and pigment before infusing it with the concepts of abstraction, defined as the expression of universal ideas through non-recognizable forms. For this reason, the resulting works, meditations on nature, its cycles and its powers, are indisputably unique. The most dramatic example in this exhibition is Continuum of Seasons , a work consisting of six cotton fiber and pigment panels and measuring about 7 feet high by almost 30 feet wide. It is magnificent in both size and complexity and can barely be visually consumed at once. The panels are unified by a gray river-like line that snakes through them horizontally, outlined in an earth tone and bisected repeatedly by bright red vertical lines. There are moments of smooth ombré color transitioning from dark to light, and other moments where paper pulp has been patched on after drying, resulting in a collage effect. Colors meet and are intersected by bright blue and stark black vertical stripes and, far to the left, red circles dance in a white field. In the 25th Anniversary show for his Fishy Whale Press, he said his goal has been to define and condense an image that becomes an extension of the process of nature. Another painting that captures Poska’s technical skill and conceptual message is the diptych Sunprayer VI . Its composition

Roland Poska was a student of the place where opposing forces meet and part. He meditated on the power of natural phenomena like the soft changing of seasons and explosive collisions of tectonic plates. He was also concerned with the balance between the peaceful and violent natures of humanity, as well as our ability to push each other away and bring each other closer. All of these boundaries are rough and ill-defined. These concepts informed and defined his oeuvre, which takes the form of lithographs and collage-like cotton fiber and pigment “paintings” and sculptures. In all of these works, colors and edges meet at rough junctions. He called this meeting the Deckle Edge. From the start Poska was interested in papermaking and was therefore very familiar with the deckle, a wooden frame that contains poured paper pulp while it dries. When the deckle is removed, the rough, craggy edges signature to handmade paper reveal themselves. Poska was interested in what happens when two deckled edges are put together and relates those deckle edges to any opposing forces in nature. There will be friction; the two edges do not and cannot match, and when forced together some are jammed and others will barely touch. This fascinated him. M y philosophy is that everything in nature is the result of forces meeting or parting. The thing I was interested in was not the objects in the landscape, not the result of the forces, but the forces themselves. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Rockford College, he earned a Masters in Fine Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art. This is where he was introduced to papermaking and printmaking, the mediums that would change his life. Upon graduating in 1963, he founded the Fishy Whale Press in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois. He was a publisher for other artists and in 1967 began his own master

is centered by a sunset swath of yellow transitioning to pink, framed on all edges by bands and patches of various colors. It presents as stage curtains being pulled back to reveal the most glorious sunset. In a 1988 artist statement, he explained, I am very pleased with the Sun Prayer paintings for they are the essence of color, form and texture expanding and compressing in fluctuating environmental fields. I have searched down to the basics and the image that I have put together I feel begins to capture that feeling of nature that I sense throughout. The Sentinels are a group of sculptures that Poska created toward the end of his career. He had previously toyed with sculpture but the concepts were not fully realized until his wife asked him to create table bases of paper pulp in the mid- 1990s. This spurred him to fully explore freestanding sculpture and he began what would become the Sentinel series. The sculptures in this exhibition reach 80 to 90 inches tall and are made from cotton fiber and pigment creations that are molded and shaped before fully drying. Poska spent somany years of his life advocating for the “Perfect Day” in which there would be no violence, racism or prejudice and when everyone would simply get along. While he was supported in these beliefs, it is not a coincidence that some of his last works would be giant totems whose name meant to “stand and keep watch.” They are Poska’s legacy, and his insurance that someone would watch over his audiences and see that we keep moving toward a better, more peaceful future.

Grace Cote

DECKLE EDGE/FROM DRY WOODS 1979-2007 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 52 x 77 inches JMG18959 / P100

DECKLE EDGE-RAINDROP SERIES II 2010 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 42 x 25 inches JMG18968 / P115

DECKLE EDGE-RAINDROP SERIES I c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 42 1/2 x 30 1/2 inches JMG18964 / P052

UNTITLED c 1970s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 47 1/4 x 71 1/4 inches JMG19013 / P037

DECKLE EDGE/SUNBURST #2 2008 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 47 x 56 inches JMG18958 / P099

DECKLE EDGE/EXPANDING SUN DECKLE EDGE/LAST RAINDROP 2008 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 50 x 52 inches JMG18966 / P086

UNTITLED c 1980s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 80 x 90 inches JMG19028 / P097

DECKLE EDGE-RAINDROP SERIES V 2003 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 40 1/2 x 27 1/2 inches JMG19014 / P104

SUN PRAYER VII c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 79 x 91 inches JMG19015 / P147

SUN PRAYER VI Cotton Fiber and Pigment 78 x 90 inches JMG18908

DECKLE EDGE-LITTLE BLACK HOLE 2008 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 46 x 60 inches JMG19016 / P154

RAINDROP-RED SKY c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 41 x 41 inches JMG19027 / P006

CONTINUUM OF SEASONS c 1980s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 84 x 375 inches JMG19017 / P023

DECKLE EDGE-SUNSPOT-RAINDROP SERIES III 2006 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 36 x 18 inches JMG18955 / P091

UNTITLED c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 57 x 96 inches JMG19018 / P003

DECKLE EDGE/EXTENDED SUMMER c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 42 x 78 inches JMG18953 / P035

DECKLE EDGE-SUNSPOT-RAINDROP SERIES XII 2006 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 36 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches JMG18965 / P056

WALL SENTINEL I c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 107 x 13 inches JMG19037 / WS01

WALL SENTINEL II c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment

85 x 19 1/2 inches JMG19020 / WS162

DECKLE EDGE/SUNSPOT/RAINDROP SERIES X 2006 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 46 x 25 inches JMG18961 / P043


39 x 24 1/2 inches JMG18970 / P122

DECKLE EDGE-SUNSPOT-RAINDROP SERIES V 2006 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 38 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches JMG19022 / P102

WALL SENTINEL III c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 109 x 13 inches JMG19032 / WS167

WALL SENTINEL IV c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 80 x 23 inches JMG19021 / P163

SENTINEL IV c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 112 x 30 inches JMG19025 / S003

SENTINEL VI c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 113 x 31 inches JMG19026 / S005



SENTINEL XXI c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment 87 x 17 1/2 inches JMG19038 / S54

SENTINEL XIX c 2000s Cotton Fiber and Pigment



88 x 27 1/2 inches JMG19024 / S055


EVENING RAIN SHOWER c 1990s Cotton Fiber and Pigment

30 1/2 x 22 inches JMG18984 / P191

45 1/2 x 61 inches JMG19023 / P038

Roland Poska 1938-2017

EDUCATION BA, Rockford College, Rockford, IL MFA, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI

1980 1979 1977 1976


Carmichael & Carmichael, St. Paul, MN Scarabb Art Gallery, Cleveland, OH Gruen Art Gallery, Chicago, IL Rahr-West Art Museum, Manitowoc, WI Creighton University, Omaha, NE Paine Art Center, Oshkosh, WI Midwest Museum of Art, Elkhart, IN Delind Fine Arts, Milwaukee, WI Gruen Art Gallery, Chicago, IL Freeport Art Museum, Freeport, IL Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL LaPelle Art Gallery, Philadelphia, PA The Neville Public Museum, Green Bay, WI Syd Entel Gallery, Tampa Bay, FL Bergren Art Gallery, Rockford, IL Delind Fine Arts, Milwaukee, WI Gilman Art Gallery, Chicago, IL Henry Reuss Federal Plaza, Milwaukee, WI

Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, AZ Space Gallery, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI Gilman Art Gallery, Chicago, IL

1961 1963


Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI Inaugural exhibition in new Bradley Wing

TEACHING Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee, WI

1995 1994

1974- 1976 1965- 1974 1963- 1964 2018 2012 2004 2003 2000 1999 1998


Layton School of Art and Design, Milwaukee, WI

Beloit College Art Museum, Beloit WI Chicago Art Institute, Chicago IL Creighton University Collection, Omaha, NE Freeport Art Museum, Freeport IL Kasch Company, Milwaukee WI Mayo Clinic Collection, Rochester MN MetLife, St. Louis MO Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee WI Northwestern University, Chicago IL Quad Graphics Collection, Milwaukee WI Racine Art Museum, Racine WI Rockford Art Museum, Rockford IL Scottsdale Center for the Arts, AZ University of WI Collection, Madison WI

1993 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1982 1981

Rockford College, Rockford, IL

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, NC Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Milwaukee, WI Kortman Gallery, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL E.R. Tipper Art Gallery, Wichita, KS Gruen Art Gallery, Chicago, IL

Gilman Art Gallery, Chicago, IL Gilman Art Gallery, Chicago, IL Lesch Art Gallery, Minneapolis, MN

DECKLE EDGE-SUNSPOT- RAINDROP SERIES XIII 2006 Cotton Fiber and Pigment 45 x 21 inches JMG18956 / P050

Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, MI Syd Entel Art Gallery, Safety Harbor, FL

Published on the occasion of the exhibition

Roland Poska Deckl e Edge

September 15 - November 3, 2018

Jerald Melberg Gallery Inc. 625 South Sharon Amity Road Charlotte, NC 28211 704.365.3000 gallery@jeraldmelberg.com www.jeraldmelberg.com

Photography by Steve Pitkin and Lydia Bittner-Baird

Graphic Design by Gaybe Johnson Printed by Boingo Graphics

Publication Copyright © 2018 Jerald Melberg Gallery Inc. All Rights Reserved ISBN: 978-1-64370-105-9

625 South Sharon Amity Road Charlotte, NC 28211 704.365.3000 gallery@jeraldmelberg.com www.jeraldmelberg.com

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