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 Gerome L. Kamrowski  (1914 - 2004)

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Lived/Active: Michigan/New York/Minnesota      Known for: fanciful, surreal imagery painting and sculpture, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Gerome L Kamrowski
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the obituary of the artist published by the University of Michigan, The University Record Online, April 5, 2004,

Gerome Kamrowski

?A teacher of art at U-M for 38 years, Gerome Kamrowski—professor emeritus of art and nationally renowned early artist of the surrealist movement—died at his home in Ann Arbor March 27. He was 90.

"As a teacher, Professor Kamrowski admonished his students to experiment and push the boundaries of their art. He urged them to be unafraid of failure and consider it a natural part of the creative process," says Jon Rush, professor of art in the School of Art & Design. "Above all, he stressed the importance of finding one's own path and that it would take hard work and dedication to achieve that. He was a natural teacher who related well to students because he himself never stopped being one."

A Minnesota native, Kamrowski moved early in his career to New York, where he worked with a group of abstract artists, including Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Robert Motherwell.

While his works have been shown in noted venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, Whitney, Hirshhorn and Metropolitan museums, Kamrowski's art also can be seen in the Joe Louis Arena station of the Detroit People Mover.

Last summer the U-M Museum of Art (UMMA) mounted a retrospective exhibit that encompassed works from the 1930s to 2003, ranging from landscape paintings in the abstract expressionist style to geometrically inspired, landscape-themed mosaics from 2002. In the 1940s ?Kamrowski began using animal imagery in brightly colored sculptural pieces representing hybrid animal forms, often incorporating beads, baubles and metal parts.

"Whimsical and energetic, mysterious and sublime, the work of Ann Arbor artist Gerome Kamrowski has been characterized in many different ways," says Sean Ulmer, curator of modern and contemporary art at UMMA. "Constantly challenging himself as well as his viewer, Kamrowski (was) engaged in a lifelong search for new and exciting ways to represent the themes that interested him. This has made it challenging to categorize or classify his work in art historical terms, but it has helped ensure its freshness and vitality."

Ted Ramsay, professor of art, remembers that, as a young faculty member at the University, he drove Kamrowski to New York City in a well-worn station wagon with a large alarm clock taped to the dash. "We had everything we needed for the trip: food, beverage, clothes, but after getting underway, we realized that we had no maps.

"Toward dusk, we arrived in South Orange, N.J., and after much navigating pulled up in front of a stately old home with tall grass growing in the front yard. Our host had been expecting us and rushed out, hugged Gerry and then myself, and invited us in for something to drink before going to bed. Grabbing my overnight bag and Gerry's, I entered into a series of large rooms devoid of furnishings, but housing many maquette studies of future sculpture on pedestals and the floor.

"We were ushered into one very huge room with a large table covered with a blue oilcloth and equipped with four chairs. Looming in a darkened corner opposite the table stood a huge refrigerator filled with bottles. Thus began an evening of listening to Gerry and our host, Tony Smith, the famous American sculptor of Gracehopper on the DIA lawn among other works, talk about New York and their experiences as artists working in the city.

"The next morning, as we were preparing to leave for NYC to gallery hop, I remembered that we had no maps, and so I inquired about directions into the city. Tony quickly responded, 'Just follow the fruit trucks!' After navigating several blocks, Gerry spied a long line of slow moving trucks flowing in an easterly direction. He smiled and waved to one of the drivers, and we merged in behind a large stake truck belching blue exhaust, and we were on our way ... the Kamrowski way."

Kamrowski became professor emeritus in 1984, the same year the Michigan Foundation for the Arts honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The School of Art & Design says there are no plans for a memorial service at this time.?—Submitted by Joanne Nesbit, News Service

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from online news of the Michigan Ross School of Business:

"New Kamrowskis Enliven Art Environment at the Business School"  2/24/2004 --

Four new works by nationally renowned artist Gerome Kamrowski expand the Business School's Art on View collection of American prints and sculpture.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – American artist Gerome (Jerry) Kamrowski was a well-known figure at the University of Michigan School of Art where he taught for 40 years, but few could have predicted his surrealistic works one day would become popular among Business School students and faculty.

Last year, Kamrowski loaned the Business School his sculpture Arborescent, which was displayed in Assembly Hall. The immense piece depicting five fanciful creatures was such a hit that the School's Art Acquisition Committee decided to purchase two Kamrowskis by using a sizeable contribution to the Art Fund from the Charles H. Ihling (MBA '79) Memorial Fund. The Ann Arbor artist, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, felt so honored to be part of the School's Art on View collection that he donated two additional works, making four in all.

"We only buy works on paper by nationally recognized American artists for the permanent collection, but the feedback on Arborescent was so positive we decided to purchase something outside the theme," says Kathleen Dolan, who joined the Art Acquisition Committee shortly after she and her husband, Dean Robert J. Dolan, settled in Ann Arbor three years ago. "Jerry Kamrowski's reputation also was an important factor in the decision."

During the 1930s and early 1940s, Kamrowski worked in New York with such artists as Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock and helped spearhead the development of American Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. His work from this period is in permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art and other leading museums around the world.

In 1948, Kamrowski moved to Ann Arbor to teach at the Art School, where he retired in 1982. For more than half a century, he has continued to work in his home studio. His most recent artistry includes colorful paintings, sculptures, wind machines, beaded wooden creatures and art installations for public spaces.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art has featured his work in two major exhibitions. Locally, his work is sold through the River Gallery in Chelsea, where Kathleen Dolan is an art consultant.

At the Business School, the first two Kamrowskis–Deep Ocean, an acrylic on paper, and Untitled Creature, a polychromed and beaded wood and plexigass sculpture–were installed on Feb. 9 outside the Kresge Library.  The other two–Ribbed Vertical, an ink and gouache on board, and a small mosaic construction, to be selected by the Art Committee from Kamrowski's personal collection–will be displayed together elsewhere in the School.


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