Press Release

Through October in the Drawing Gallery the George Adams Gallery is pleased to present H.C. Westermann: Woodcuts, Linocuts, and Lithographs 1962 – 1975. The exhibition features 14 prints including several rare examples of his work in this medium, as well as a related sculpture.

Most notable in the exhibition is a complete set of Westermann's five-part linocut series Disasters in the Sky from 1962, his first effort at printmaking and one of only five complete sets believed to exist. Also noteworthy are Green Planet π, one of three color lithographs printed at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1967, and Westermann’s first woodcut, The Human Fly from 1971; both rare due to the small size of the editions.

Other prints on view include color lithographs Red Deathship and Red Planet J, printed at the same time as Green Planet π; the 1975 color woodcut Dance of Death (San Pedro) from The Conn. Ballroom suite; Death Ship in a Port from the 1972 Six Lithographs Suite; and See America First, an unusual reworking of #6 from the 18-part See America First suite and published separately (and in yet another small edition). There are also two woodcuts printed on the backs of envelopes: Norma Jean, an uneditioned print from a block cut expressly for the purpose, and a unique impression of a detail taken from The Elephants Graveyard, also part of the Conn. Ballroom suite.


Red Deathship (Deathship of No Port), 1967
color lithograph
27 ¼ x 21 ¼ inches
HCWr 04.42
edition of 50

One of Westermann’s first color lithographs, Red Deathship was printed and published by the Kansas City Art Institute in 1967. A frequent and haunting image in Westermann’s work (aside from numerous drawings, it is the subject of twenty sculptures and eight prints), the Death Ship comes from Westermann’s personal experiences while serving on the USS Enterprise during WWII.

See America First #6 (Billy Al), 1968
color lithograph
22 x 30 inches
HCWr 09.15
edition of 10

In 1968, during a fellowship at the Tamarind Print Workshop in Los Angeles, Westermann made the 17-print (plus frontis) suite See America First using watercolor studies inspired by his 1964 cross-country road trip. This print is a variant of #6 and, despite the title, was not part of the suite but rather a subsequent reworking using two, rather than four, colors.

Norma Jean, 1976
woodcut on paper
9 ½ x 4 inches
HCWr 28

Westermann was an avid correspondent who often illustrated his letters and frequently even the envelopes in which they were mailed. This impression, of Marilyn Monroe, was made from an uneditioned woodcut Westermann produced to print on the reverse side of a business-size envelope.


Disasters in the Sky #1 – Merry Christmas, 1962-63
black and white linoleum cut
7 x 5 inches
HCWr 13

Disasters in the Sky #2, 1962
black and white linoleum cut
8 x 6 inches
HCWr 14

Disasters in the Sky #3, 1962-63
black and white linoleum cut
6 x 8 inches
HCWr 15

Disasters in the Sky #4, 1963
black and white linoleum cut
6 x 8 inches
HCWr 16

Disasters in the Sky #5, 1962
black and white linoleum cut
12 x 9 inches
HCWr 17

These are Westermann’s first prints and were both cut and printed by him in late 1962 and early 1963. This rare complete set, one of probably only five, was mailed to Frank Gettings (the envelope is mounted to the reverse of #1), an employee of the Allan Frumkin Gallery on 57th Street where Westermann exhibited in New York until 1978. Disaster #5 appears to be a reference to the July, 1945 crash of a B-25 bomber into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.

Untitled (Eagle), 1975
woodcut on paper
9 ½ x 4 inches
HCWr 26

This impression, made on the back of an envelope mailed to Westermann’s dealer Allan Frumkin, is a detail of Elephant’s Graveyard from the artist’s Conn. Ballroom suite of woodcuts printed in 1975.

Death Ship in a Port – Six Lithographs Suite, 1972
color lithograph
25 ¼ x 33 inches
HCWr 03.1
edition of 60

Death Ship in a Port is the first of the Six Lithographs suite printed and published by Landfall Press, Chicago in 1972. It is a variation on his 1967 Kansas City Art Institute black and white lithograph Port of Shadows, and is even more closely related to Dance of Death – San Pedro.

The Dance of Death – Conn. Ballroom Suite, 1975
24 x 30 inches
HCWr 08.03
edition of 39

Number three of six (plus frontis sheet) from the Conn. Ballroom suite, the image shows Westermann in formal attire dancing on the wharf in front of the artist’s signature Death Ship. Westermann not only printed the suite of six color woodcuts in his Connecticut studio, he also cut the blocks – there were three or four for each print. He apparently grew tired of the printing process, however; the total number of impressions of each print varies from 33 to 39, and not all sets included the frontis.

Green Planet, 1967
color lithograph,
27 ¼ x 21 ¼
HCWr 05
edition of 15

Red Planet “J”, 1967
color lithograph
30 ¼ x 22 ½
HCWr 02
edition of 50

Made at the same time as Red Deathship, Red Planet “J” and Green Planet were printed and published by the Kansas City Art Institute in 1967.  The subjects and motifs of the prints reflect Westermann’s interest in popular science fiction films, comics, and novels of the 1950s, especially those that functioned as metaphors for Cold War politics.

The Human Fly, 1971
woodcut on paper
24 x 18 inches
HCWr 12
edition of 21

The Human Fly was Westermann’s first woodcut.  The immediacy offered by the medium is palpable in the bold, graphic style of the print and underscored by the print’s unmediated production; Westermann cut the block and printed the edition himself.

Mr. Goo #1, 1966
chrome plated bronze
14 x 11 x 4 5/8 inches
HCWs 23
first of two variants

Mr. Goo was originally cast in bronze when it was purchased by the collector Frederic Ossorio. Westermann made a second, variant, cast that was chrome plated which so pleased him that persuaded Ossorio to let him chrome plate his as well. Michael Rooks, in the Westermann catalog raisonné (MCA Chicago, 2001) attributes the inscription For every 100 smart ones God makes a real dummy as an ironic reference to the artist's son's decision to enlist in the Marine Corps and fight in Vietnam. Westermann himself served in the Marines during WWII and Korea, but he was very much opposed to the Vietnam War.