Gordon Louis Mortensen Biography

Gordon Louis Mortensen




Born near Arnegard, North Dakota on April 27, 1938, Gordon Mortensen received his BFA degree with Honors in 1964 from the Minneapolis School of Art (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and he was enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul between 1969 and 1972.

Originally a portrait painter, Mortensen almost entirely abandoned that media for reduction woodcutting, achieving the creative freedom he desired. At the time, he was one of the few practicing artists of this method in the United States. During this transitional time, he taught briefly at the Saint Paul Art Museum, the Rochester Art Center, and the Minnetonka Art Center in Wayzata.

Early in his printmaking career, Mortensen circulated his color woodcuts via exhibitions in the Midwest. His work reached a wider audience in 1976 when he participated in the Brooklyn Museum National Print Exhibition and the following year he joined the Boston Printmakers.

Mortensen describes his reduction woodcut process:

"Only one woodblock is used. On it an image is drawn in India ink. Before the first color is printed, any areas that are to remain unprinted (white or the color of the paper) are cut away from the surface of the block. Then an oil base ink is used to print the first color on all of the sheets of paper that are to be used for the edition and proofs.  After the first printing the block is again cut, removing any surface of the block that is to remain the first color in the finished print.  After each subsequent color is printed, the block is cut, the process continues until the print is finished and most of the surface of the block is cut away."

Mortensen's early works have fewer colors and are smaller, but the later woodcuts frequently have from twenty-three to forty-seven colors and can be as large as forty inches plus and wider than thirty inches. This normally requires between twenty and thirty-five passes through the press, taking as much as a month to complete an edition. He has usually printed on Japanese mulberry paper.

Mortensen produced membership prints for the Albany Print Club and the Print Club of Rochester, New York. His listing of solo exhibitions is impressive and his works has been included in numerous selected competitions and exhibitions. His works are in many private, college, and corporate collections and are in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the Monterey Museum of Art, California; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts.