An ancient art’s indelible marks


When Allegra Pesenti, associate curator at the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum, stumbled across scrolls of woodcut prints from the Cuban revolution in a storage room at UCLA, she was mesmerized and moved to delve deeper into the medium of woodcutting. The end result is the upcoming exhibit, “Gouge: The Modern Woodcut 1870 to Now.” The simplest and most ancient form of printing, woodcutting dates to the 8th century in Asia when Buddhist monks developed the technique to produce devotional texts. A woodcut requires just a block of wood, ink, paper and a cutting tool known as a gouge, and it is common around the world.

Pesenti was most intrigued by the images produced at the end of the 19th century by modern artists such as Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who each have pieces on display. “It was the first time artists incorporated the grain of the wood in wood blocks as part of the image,” Pesenti said. Up until then artists tried to mask the fact that their compositions were made from wood. These emerging artists appreciated the organic, grainy nature of the wood and the gritty, raw line created with the gouge.

The majority of the 100 pieces on display were borrowed from various museums, including Munch’s “The Kiss” and Anselm Kiefer’s “Gone” from New York’s Museum of Modern Art.


The three recently unearthed Cuban scrolls were designed in 1960 in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution and were handed directly to UCLA professor Maurice Zeitlin (then a student in Cuba) by Che Guevara in 1961. Two of the three murals will be on display, including “The Pseudo-Republic and the Revolution” by artist Carmelo Gonzalez Iglesias, which measures 51 by 169 inches. “These prints were pasted on the walls of the city, so they would have been destroyed over time,” said Pesenti. “They are rare mementos of a monumental time in history.”

The exhibit begins next Sunday and runs through Feb. 8.




Where: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

When: Next Sunday through Feb. 8

Price: $7 adults, $5 seniors, free 17 and under.

Contact: (310) 443-7000

-- Liesl Bradner