BAMPFA adds two important works by Sonya Rapoport to collection

“Sonya Rapoport (1923-2015) lived in Berkeley and engaged in campus life for nearly six decades. It is therefore fitting that Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive added two important works by Sonya Rapoport to their permanent collection. The pair represents her career at the pivotal point when the artist was transitioning from Abstract Expressionism to Conceptual Art practice and illuminates her interest in the visual dialogue between found surface and painted/drawn shapes.”

Sonya Rapoport, Survey Chart, Drawing
Sonya Rapoport, Survey Chart No. 19, 1971. Gouache and graphite on found antique survey chart, 22″ x 18”.

“Survey Chart Drawing no. 19 (pictured above) is one of two remaining renderings on geological survey charts from a dam building project on the Snake River in Idaho. Rapoport discovered the vintage charts in an architect’s desk she acquired from UC Berkeley. The drawings are are critical to understanding Rapoport’s continued experiments with found, pre-printed materials, including her radical later conceptual work using dot-matrix computer printouts, keypunch cards, and New York Times pages.”

Sonya Rapoport, The Creation (detail), 1974. Acrylic airbrush and graphite on gessoed canvas, 72” x 96”.

“The Creation (1974, detail pictured above) is from a series of paintings that directly follow the Survey Chart drawings. Rapoport recreates the graphic language of geological information from the survey charts on the paintings. The grid, which serves as the foundation for these works, strongly resonates with works by Minimalist artists of the period including Agnes Martin and Sol Lewitt.”

– Text by KunstWorks

Sonya Rapoport, Pandora’s Box, 1971 – 1976. Collection of stencils and related objects.

These works both feature Rapoport’s “Nu-Shu” stencil language of feminine symbols, which she used in all of her work from this period. Nushu is a script used exclusively by women in Hunan, China – a fitting inspiration for the first of many sets of enigmatic symbols that Rapoport would explore in drawings, computer art, and interactive installations throughout her later career.