AU Exhibition: 'Darkness and Light: The Artistic Journey of Carl Grupp'

 "Darkness and Light: The Artistic Journey of Carl Grupp"

Included within the Collection are (left to right): Carl Grupp, “Parable #V: The Prodigal Son,” intaglio, ca. 1968; Carl Grupp, Iris, watercolor on board, 20” x 16” n.d.; Carl Grupp, “Self Portrait,” pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor, n.d.

Event Details

Date: February 13 - March 5, 2020

Times: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 1-4 p.m. | Exhibition on view, Feb. 13-March 5; Gallery Reception: Friday, Feb. 21, 7-9 p.m.; curator’s talk at 7:30 p.m.

Location: The Eide/Dalrymple Gallery in the Center for Visual Arts on the Commons Circle off 30th Street and Grange Avenue

Ticket Info: Free and open to the public

“Darkness and Light: The Artistic Journey of Carl Grupp” celebrates one of South Dakota’s and the region’s most preeminent artists. Carl Grupp (1939-2019) was a professor at Augustana from 1969 until 2004. He also founded the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery and, through the decades, built a permanent art collection, which is now named for him.

In the summer of 2018, Grupp made a gift of more than 350 works of his own creation: paintings, original prints and drawings. With this donation, the Carl Grupp Permanent Art Collection has become the signal repository of Carl Grupp’s works, with examples spanning his entire prolific career.

It is from this gift that this exhibition is drawn, the first major posthumous exhibition of the artist.

The exhibition is on view Feb. 13-March 5 in the Eide/Dalrymple Gallery. The reception was 7-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, with a curator’s talk at 7:30 p.m.

As a professor of drawing, printmaking, and painting, Carl Grupp introduced his students to the techniques of chiaroscuro — the Italian word meaning light-dark — that enables forms to take on three-dimensional weight and lends drama to compositions through bold contrasts. The works included in this exhibition attest to Grupp’s own virtuoso skills in expressive rendering. The theme of darkness and light, however, also connects Grupp’s varied subject matter into a life-long arc that, ultimately, was concerned with the struggles of the human condition. Parables, Biblical narratives (especially the story of Cain and Abel), and Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 book of poetry Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) were inspirations that led to Grupp’s earliest significant body of mature work.

There was no limit to Grupp’s imagination. In his art there is darkness, but there is also a lot of light. Botanical studies, birds, Labrador Retrievers, jesters, and carnivalesque characters, amongst many others, become the symbolic alphabet upon which Grupp brought meaning to the chaos of living. His allegories and still lifes juxtapose and often confuse the interior with the exterior, like Grupp himself, whose personality combined a deep interiority with a larger-than-life gregariousness.

Through the chaos, Grupp modeled ways to find illumination. His landscapes, particularly his large-scale mountains, left behind topographical accuracy to become their own expressive geographies. There is a Sanskrit word, tirtha, which refers to pilgrimage sites and holy places. The Northern Rocky Mountains were certainly a pilgrimage site for Grupp. Tirtha, however, also means “crossing place” or “ford” and is understood to be a place or person who helps us transcend our mundane suffering and find illumination and forgiveness. This, ultimately, becomes the light that Grupp sought for himself and for his viewers through his artwork.

Carl Grupp was as formidable as he was beloved. Although we mourn the passing of a friend, colleague, mentor, and leading artist, his legacy will continue to endure.

Carl Grupp earned a B.F.A. in painting, with a minor in printmaking, from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 1964. In 1965, he traveled through Europe and studied at the Art Student Vrije Academie in The Hague, Netherlands. He went on to earn an M.F.A. with honors in printmaking from Indiana University in 1969. Grupp participated in over 100 regional, national, and international art exhibitions since 1961, with dozens of one-man shows, and his work is represented in significant corporate and private collections. Grupp was a recipient of the Sioux Falls Mayor’s Awards for the Arts for Excellence in Visual Arts (2002) and the South Dakota Governor’s Awards in the Arts for Creative Achievement (2005).

The Eide/Dalrymple Gallery is located on Commons Circle (30th Street and Grange Avenue), in the Center for Visual Arts at Augustana University. The gallery is open to the public and free of charge. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday 1-4 p.m.

Dr. Lindsay Twa
Director, Eide/Dalrymple Gallery