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Adja Yunkers
Large Mixed Media Collage "Pink One" Etching Latvian American Modernist Artist

1977

$1,200

About

Adja Yunkers b. 1900, Riga, Russia; d. 1983, New York Adja Yunkers was born Adolf Junkers on July 15, 1900, in Riga, Russia (now Latvia). He studied art in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg), but from 1917 to 1919 his schooling was interrupted by military service in the Russian army. Yunkers soon left Russia for Europe and traveled extensively for the next two decades, settling for long periods in Cuba, France, and Germany. During much of his early career, Yunkers was active in political as well as artistic movements. At times his political investments even outweighed his commitment to his art, and in 1936 he moved to Spain to fight in its civil war. When the war ended in 1939, he moved to Stockholm and began to focus on art making again. He became associated with the Swedish Surrealists and published three journals devoted to art and politics. These handcrafted publications signaled a strong interest in printmaking, and in the 1940s he made many woodblock prints depicting distorted objects and figural compositions that demonstrate the influence of German Expressionism on his work. In 1947, Yunkers moved to New York and began to teach at the New School for Social Research. After four tumultuous marriages, he married one of his former students from the New School, Dore Ashton, in 1952. Ashton became an art critic for the New York Times in 1955, and through her, Yunkers was introduced to the artists who would become known as the Abstract Expressionists. He began drawing with pastel directly on canvas, resulting in large-scale works that recall Color Field painting in their emphasis on the materiality of color. Expanding on this impulse, Yunkers's later work made extensive use of negative space, collage, and monochrome. The influence of Minimalism in this more reduced aesthetic is clear, and his canvases became more object-like. Both printmaking and bookmaking were central to Yunkers's oeuvre. He founded the Rio Grande Workshop in New Mexico (where he also taught) in 1949, publishing an entirely handmade art magazine called Prints in the Desert. In 1969 he illustrated a limited-edition book by the poet Octavio Paz, a collaboration that sparked both a friendship and a number of additional illustrated books in the years to come. Yunkers also produced two large public works on commission: A Human Condition (1966), a mural for Syracuse University, and a tapestry produced for Stony Brook University (1968), both in New York. Yunkers had his first solo exhibition in 1921 at the Maria Kunde Galerie, Hamburg, Germany. Later that same year, he was part of a group show featuring Eastern European and Russian artists, including Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, and Vasily Kandinsky, held in Hannover, Germany. He was included in an exhibition organized by the Print Council of America entitled American Prints Today. A snapshot of the state of American printmaking at the time of the exhibition. Among the many featured artists were Josef Albers, Leonard Baskin, Ralston Crawford, Adolf Dehn, Fritz Glarner, Grace Hartigan, Jasper Johns, Ynez Johnston, John Paul Jones, Misch Kohn, Mauricio Lasansky, Vincent Longo, Ezio Martinelli, James McGarrell, Gabor Peterdi, Karl Schrag, Ben Shahn, Benton Spruance, Carol Summers, and Adja Yunkers. He exhibited widely in the United States and Europe, with retrospectives at the Baltimore Museum of Art (1960); Utah Museum of Art, Salt Lake City (1968); Museo de arte moderno, Bosque de Chapultepec, Instituto nacional de bellas artes, Mexico City (1975); and Fine Arts Museum of Long Island, Hempstead, New York (1984). In 1967, the Brooklyn Museum presented a retrospective devoted entirely to his prints. Yunkers died on December 24, 1983, in New York.

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