Sonya Rapoport (1923-2015) lived in Berkeley and engaged in campus life for nearly six decades. It is fitting that Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive added two important works to their permanent collection from the Sonya Rapoport Legacy Trust. The pair represents Rapoport’s 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.
Untitled Survey Chart Drawing no. 19 (1971, 20 x 24”, gouache and graphite on found survey chart) 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.
The Creation (1974, graphite, acrylic and acrylic spray on canvas, 72 x 96) 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.