Ronald Markman’s New York Times Obituary

   about the artist

Since childhood, my art has always been inspired by popular culture.  I began drawing at my family’s kitchen table in the Bronx while listening to Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and Charlie McCarthy on the radio.  On Saturdays at the Pelham Parkway movie palaces, I fell in love with the madcap mayhem of the Marx Brothers and the 30’s screwball comedies.

And when my parents began taking me to Broadway musicals  -- as a salesman in the garment district, my father always had tickets to shows -- I learned about the power of color and costume and design.

My literary icons were comic book heroes like Smokey Stover, L’il Abner and Krazy Kat, and in my teens I went to a vocational high school to train as a cartoonist.  After high school I began getting some cartooning work, and I finally got up the nerve to show my portfolio to Saul Steinberg.  He told me I needed to learn how to draw, so I enrolled in the Art Students’ League and studied with George Grosz. 

As my fascination with art eclipsed my interest in cartooning, I studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students’ League.

Then I was drafted.  After painting signs for two years at an Army base in Virginia -- what else could the Army do with a painter? -- I went to Yale School of Fine Arts on the G.I. bill where I earned a BFA/MFA studying with Josef Albers.  My early influences included Klee, Chagall, Miro, Calder, and eventually Claes Oldenburg.


In 1962, I went to Italy on a Fullbright.  After falling under the spell of the centuries-old maps in Roman museums, I conceived of Mukfa, a fantasy realm of unbridled absurdity that would be the well-spring for much of my art over the next few decades. 

Creating a country of my very own, complete with its own heroes, villains, mermaids, newspapers, airline and university (Yes U!)  offered me the freedom I had always sought from art -- the freedom to be seriously silly.  In Mukfa, I was free to explore the limits of the nonsensical, the absurd and the subversive.  Lewis Carroll had found his creativity in Wonderland; in 1962, I found my way home to Mukfa! 


In 1965, the Terry Dintenfass Gallery in Manhattan offered my first one-man show -- and the first public showcase for my Mukfa etchings and paintings.  Terry’s Gallery on 57th Street was only 10 miles from Pellham Parkway, but it opened an entirely new world for me -- a world of critics (who praised the work) and art-lovers (who bought out the show). 

As a high school student, I used to go to the Museum of Modern Art to see old Chaplin and Buster Keaton films.  The day the Modern bought a painting from my first show was the day I first believed in my future as an artist.


Born: 1931, Bronx, New York

Education:  Yale University, BFA 1957; MFA 1959

One-man Exhibitions:

“Heroes, Villains, and Mermaids,” Mitchell  Gallery, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Md. – 2005

Terry Dintenfass Gallery, NYC – 1985, 1982, 1979, 1976, 1971, 1968,  1966, 1965

Dart Gallery, Chicago – 1981

Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana – 1974

Kanegis Gallery, Boston – 1959

Selected Group Exhibitions:

American Academy and Institute of Art and Letters, New York, NY – 1989, 1977

Contemporary American Painting, Indianapolis Museum Of Art - 1974, 1972, 1969, 1968

“Humor, Satire, and Irony,” The New School Art Center, New York, NY – 1972

16th National Print Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY  (Purchase Prize) – 1968

“Recent Acquisitions,” Museum of Modern Art,  New York, NY –1966

Chicago Biennial Print and Drawing Show, Art Institute of Chicago,  Chicago, IL – 1964

“Drawings of the Twentieth Century,” Arts Club of Chicago,  Chicago, IL    –1962

Whitney Annual, Whitney Museum, New York, NY – 1960

“Young America,” Whitney Museum, New York, NY – 1960

“Recent Acquisitions Show,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY – 1959

Public Collections:

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Brooklyn, Museum, New York, NY

Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH

Herbert Johnson Museum, Cornell University, New York, NY

Joseph H. Hirshhorn Collection

Library of Congress, Washington, DC

University of Alberta, Canada

University of Manitoba, Canada

Worcester Museum of Fine Arts, Worcester, MA


Ortho Child Care Center, Raritan, NJ – 1991:  Two installations

Riley Children’s Hospital, Indianapolis, IN – 1986:  Five wall murals

Rockland State Hospital, Rockland, NY – Drawing

Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY – 1969:  Christmas card


Ohio Film Festival:  Honorable Mention – 1995

Indiana Art Commission Grant for Film – 1990, 1993

Center for New Television, Chicago – 1992

Lilly Open Fellowship, 1989-90

Fulbright to Italy, 1962-63