The Butler Institute of American Art
, located at 524 Wick Avenue in Youngstown, has acquired a master painting by renowned American realist painter Audrey Flack (b. 1941). The painting, titled Baba, is a seven by thirteen foot acrylic on canvas painting that was begun by Flack in 1980, and completed in 1983. The large-scale work, among the largest paintings in the Butlers holdings, was a gift to the museums permanent collection by art enthusiast A. Barry Hirschfeld of Colorado. Baba is the second work by Flack to enter the Butlers collection.
According to Butler Director Dr. Louis Zona, The Butler is known for its collection of masterpieces. This remarkable painting is considered to be one of the very best examples of the work of Audrey Flack, who is one of Americas premier realist painters. The Butlers great collection of art has just become even greater with the addition of this work.
Audrey Flack lives and works in New York City and Long Island. She earned a graduate degree and received an honorary doctorate from Cooper Union in New York City, and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University. She attended New York University's Institute of Fine Arts where she studied the history of art. She was awarded the St. Gaudens Medal from Cooper Union, and the honorary Albert Dome professorship from Bridgeport University. She is an honorary professor at George Washington University, and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
A pioneer of Photorealism and a nationally recognized painter and sculptor, Flack's work is in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and Whitney Museum of American Art (all in New York City), as well as in the National Museum of Art in Canberra, Australia. She was the first photorealist painter to have a work purchased by the Museum of Modern Art.
Throughout her career, Flack's work has been featured in numerous traveling museum exhibitions, and has had work displayed at the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; the Cincinnati (Ohio) Art Museum; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Denver (Colorado) Art Museum; and the Butler Institute.
Baba depicts an Indian philanthropist, a descendant from a long line of spiritual masters, who in 1965 took a vow of silence, and who communicated only through sign language. Flack shot hundreds of photographs of the subject, and Baba's face was painted by the artist in three days in 1980. The unfinished canvas remained in Flacks studio for three years while she worked on other paintings. A year and a half later, she painted the three roses next to Baba's face. She completed the skyscape and seascape late in the summer of 1983.
According to Flack scholar Thalia Gouma-Peterson, Flack transformed Baba into an icon of spiritual significance through this painting, making him the modern equivalent of a Byzantine icon. The horizontal edges are defined by an intense sunset . . . and by waves splashing upwards toward the clouds, both painted in thick impasto in almost relief-like, emphatic, abstract brush strokes. This expansive, elemental, and mystical setting is Flack's most monumental seascape. It was the result of her direct involvement with nature and pays homage to the early American landscape tradition of large vistas and untamed nature. The painting is a modern combination of the human and the sublime writes Gouma-Peterson.