The WAM Files exhibit features a series of exhibition posters from the 1960s that can all be attributed to the same artist/designer. The name “Robert Clark Nelson” is found in small type on the edges and corners of several posters created to promote University Gallery exhibitions throughout the decade.
Many clues are found within WAM’s archival collection (housed at the University Archives in Andersen Library) that explain the circumstances of the creation of these posters. A U of M Purchasing Department form dated August 5, 1965 outlines that the total amount of $560.00 was used “to cover costs of designing University Gallery exhibition poster-announcements and invitations for the Academic Year 1965-66.” A Fee of $75 was assessed for the “design, layout, finished art, and production overseeing” with an additional $5 for materials for each of the 7 posters created. Two of the posters that now hang on the East wall of the Edith Carlson Gallery in the WAM Files exhibit were designed by Nelson for the 1965-1966 Academic Year: “Robert Motherwell,” and “Peter Busa.”
A Departmental Budget Record that represents Printing Requisitions for the University Gallery indicates that 2200 posters were printed to promote the Motherwell exhibit. The line item for 500 mailing labels found on the budget record, along with the fact that many of the posters kept from that era have folds and small tears (and some also include mailing labels on the back), are clues that lead us to believe that exhibition posters were created to serve as mailed exhibition announcements.
Thanks to the digitization efforts of the library unit of another institution of higher education, more information is gleaned about Robert Clark Nelson – the designer behind the name. In the September 28, 1966 edition (Volume XLI-No. 2) of the Clarion, the student newspaper of Bethel University in St. Paul, MN, an article titled, “Professor Receives Top Award In Walker Art Center Exhibition,” reveals that Nelson was a professor at Bethel. The article includes a portrait of Nelson and reported that he was one of top three award winners in the Walker Art Center biennial of painting and sculpture in 1966.
Other posters included in the WAM Files exhibit designed by Nelson include the following: John Rood Sculpture, 1964; Alechinsky, 1965; American Drawings, 1965; Marsden Hartley, 1966; Alan Davie, 1967; Jerome Hill, 1968:
*A note on artistic processes: The posters created by Nelson during the 1960s were created through photo-offset and lithography, processes that the Smithsonian American Art Museum describes in the online exhibit, “Posters: American Style.”
Rebecca Wilson is a graduate student in the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota, completing a minor in Museum Studies. She also serves as a Visitor Services Assistant at the Weisman Art Museum.