Courtesy of the Yale University Art Gallery

This January, the Yale University Art Gallery unveiled “Recent Acquisitions of Prints and Drawings,” an installation featuring works acquired by the Gallery over the last five years. The works span from the 16th century to the present day, and cover a variety of mediums, including collage, watercolor, pastels, charcoal, lithographs, inkjet print and more. 

The installation — curated by Freyda Spira, the Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings, Lisa Hodermarsky, the Sutphin Family Curator of Prints and Drawings, Joseph Henry, their Florence B. Selden Fellow, and various undergraduate Yale students who work in the department — is on view in the YUAG’s fourth-floor James E. Duffy Gallery through early June 2024. 

“Although the pandemic put a lot of things on hold, the Department of Prints and Drawings continued to accept amazing gifts from our generous donors, we also made targeted acquisitions of works on paper that underscore our inclusive approach to collecting across histories and cultures,” Spira wrote to the News.

The installation features the works of two contemporary indigenous artists, Raven Chacon and Lehuauakea; a variety of European artists including Camille Pissarro, Kazimir Malevich, and Edgar Degas; and various American artists such as Franz Kline and Titus Kapur ART ’06. 

Two accordion-folded books, made with color lithograph and woodcut on handmade ivory Amate paper, are displayed within a glass case at the center of the gallery. “The Misadventures of the Romantic Cannibals” and “Histoire Naturelle des Espécies: Illegal Alien’s Manuscript” by Enrique Chagoya are made in the style of Mayan and Aztec “codices” and address issues of politics, religion and race through satire. 

“The new Jean-Michel Basquiat acquisition was the first thing I noticed when I stepped off the elevator — the figures’ sardonic grins felt almost confrontational,” said Grace Zhou, editorial and production assistant at the Gallery. “The title of the work, ‘Famous Negro Athletes,’ comes from a 1964 book of the same name, which chronicled the lives of sportspeople like Jackie Robinson and Althea Gibson. By drawing his athletes with mask-like faces, Basquiat seems to gesture toward the dehumanizing blend of racism and hypervisibility imposed on Black public figures.”

To the right of the Basquiat is a large inkjet print and charcoal work on paper and cardboard titled “Dad on DI”, which depicts a Black father and his daughter on a train as a part of Dáreece J. Walker’s series titled “Black Fathers Matter, Series II.”

Facing Walker’s work, on the opposite wall, is David Wojnarowicz’s 1990-91 photostat “Untitled (One Day This Kid),” which takes a picture of himself as a younger boy and surrounds it with a poem he wrote in the last two years of his life, once he was diagnosed with HIV.

“The poem, addressed in part to his younger self, details what happens to queer children in a deeply homophobic culture,” Henry said. “It has been powerful to introduce Wojnarowicz to a younger generation and to teach with this work, especially at this moment in America when so much legislation has been targeting queer culture and gender self-determination.”

The installation also features a work by Jane Hammond, “Champagne Bucket with Tree Fern, Emerald Cuckoo, and Desert Bluebells,” that combines lithography, relief printing, digital printing, colored pencil, watercolor and gouache, all hand-cut and assembled on a mosaic of hand-painted papers over painted cotton rag to create an eye-catching floral arrangement over a silvery, tiled background.

Some of the older works of prominent European artists in the installation, such as “Gloucester” by Maurice Prendergast, “Suprematist Composition” by Kazimir Malevich, and “Baigneuse debout et baigneuse agenouillée (A Bather Standing and a Bather Kneeling)” by Camille Pissarro, appear to be sketches or studies for what later could become more well-known works.

“This kind of exhibition, which puts a lot of disparate works together into the same space, is an opportunity to think creatively about how works of art speak to each other in different ways,” Sprira wrote to the News.

On Feb. 16, 2024, the Gallery will unveil “Munch and Kirchner: Anxiety and Expression,” another product of its prints and drawings department, which will be the first to place the prints of two of the most prominent German expressionists alongside one another.

Dorothea Robertson covers art at Yale. A member of Yale College's Class of 2025, she will receive a B.A. in Religious Studies, focusing on religious art.