Center of an Art Renaissance: Zigmunds Priede
ArtOrg's latest exhibit closes Saturday.
Editor's note: ArtOrg Executive Director Dave Machacek writes about friend and artist, Zigmunds Priede, whose work is currently on display at the ArtOrg gallery through Saturday.
Zigmunds Priede came from his native Latvia to the small town of Judson, MN, after fleeing a war-torn Europe with his mother and sister. He became a student at the University of Minnesota and took a printmaking class. After he entered the printmaking studio, Priede said that he "never left."
After graduating, he and some friends drove to California in a blue 1954 Ford. Priede completed a graduate degree in art from Berkeley then headed for a job as a master printer near New York City at Universal Limited Art Editions on Long Island. He started as a master printer at Universal in 1962 and became art professor at the University of Minnesota a few years after that.
Priede traveled back and forth from the University to Universal during most of the 1960s and '70s and worked on some very famous projects with artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist. If one was to make a list of the most important American printed works, it is likely that Priede's name would be connected with it several times. Certainly the art market thought so in an 2008 Sotheby's auction when a set of 18 prints from Barnett Newman printed by Priede fetched more than $2 million.
He was an excellent teacher and inspired many of his students to great art careers. His connections at Universal allowed him to challenge many of the students to become respected artists and master printers. John Lund, who now prints exclusively for Jasper Johns, told me about an interesting experience with Priede. It seems that Lund had but a few credits to complete for his art degree at the University of Minnesota—John also attended St. Olaf College for two years—when he bumped into Priede on the Twin Cities campus. Lund said that Priede told him to forget about the degree and get to Universal next week; John's first project was printing for Helen Frankenthaler.
Many of Priede's students went to New York to pursue art and printmaking careers. Sometimes people talk of magical times when wonderful and special things occurred. The print shop at the University of Minnesota must have been quite a place in the late '60s and early '70s—a place of learning, creativity and fun. Priede was at the center of this art and printmaking renaissance.
He is famous for inspiring artists as printmaker and for his time as a teacher. However, Priede's own art is what drives him today. His current exhibit is titled "Time Revealed" and contains 17 new works. One particular group of mixed media works started as large lithographic prints, made on huge 4-inch think stones at the University in about 1975. He put those prints in storage for 35 years, only to take them out in 2010 to complete them. Priede explained that his life had to continue and progress in order to be able to finish them. Hence the title of the exhibit, "Time Revealed."