Elizabeth Catlett, 1915-2012


African-American sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett died on Apr. 2, at 96. Her son Francisco Mora reported that she died peacefully at her home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Catlett’s sculpture was shown in four one-person exhibitions at the June Kelly Gallery, most recently in April 2009; her first exhibition at the gallery was in 1993. One of her black marble sculptures, Torso, is on view in the gallery’s current 25th-anniversary exhibition. Her work balanced abstraction with addressing social issues, focusing on the African-American experience.

After attending Howard University, Catlett earned an MFA at the University of Iowa, and went on to study ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago and lithography at the Art Students League, New York, among other studies.

Writing in A.i.A. in 1998, Jonathan Goodman praised her “powerfully affecting, politically committed figurative sculpture,” calling it “both compositionally striking and demonstrative of larger social concerns.”

Among the notable exhibitions of her work were a 1971 solo at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the group show “Two Centuries of Black American Art” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976, and a 50-year survey at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, Westchester County, N.Y., in 1998. In 2011, the Bronx Museum organized the show “Stargazers: Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation with 21 Contemporary Artists.”

Catlett taught throughout her career, including at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s School of Fine Arts in Mexico City.

Catlett’s work is represented in museums worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City and the National Museum in Prague.