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Unlike many of his Abstract Expressionist peers, Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)
experimented in a variety of media. In addition to his monumental paintings, such as
famed Elegy series, Motherwell also explored printmaking, particularly screen prints.
Motherwell first attempted printmaking during the 1940s, and returned to it in the 1960s.
Over the course of his career, Motherwell made approximately 500 prints. One of his
most evocative series being his Africa Suite, which he began in 1970. In contrast to the
strict rectilinearity of his London Series executed a year later, Motherwell’s Africa Suite
returns to the biomorphic shapes and automatic, gestural forms of his early Abstract
Expressionist style. Although the blot of black in the center of a large sandy background
may seem to lack the specific content of Motherwell’s work from the 1940s and 1950s, it
nonetheless conveys the artist’s belief that abstract art can communicated human
emotions in a direct and powerful way. Motherwell once claimed that abstract art was
driven by a need for “felt experience—intense, immediate, direct, subtle, unified, warm,
vivid, rhythmic.” These words describe his Africa Suite, which stripes away “everything
that might dilute experience,” and boldy and simply captures the artist’s feeling at the
moment of its creation (George L.K. Morris, Willem de Kooning, Alexander Calder, Fritz
Glarner, Robert Motherwell, and Stuart Davis, “What Abstract Expressionism Means to
Me,” The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art,” Vol. 18, No. 3, Spring 1951, 12).