Growing up in 1930s Harlem with Jamaican roots, born within a year and dying within six months of each other, Herbert Gentry and Bob Blackburn thought of each other as brothers. They had a deep friendship based on understanding, intellectual and creative connection, and a genuine enthusiasm for life.
In 1945, after completing military service in WWII, Gentry returned to New York City for less than a year. With his G.I. Bill benefits in hand and a skip in his step, he boarded a boat returning to Paris and enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. As an international artist from that day forward, Gentry lived in Paris until 1959, Copenhagen from 1959-1964, Gothenberg 1964-66 and Stockholm 1966-69; during this entire time, he maintained a studio in Paris. It wasn't until 1969-70 that he included New York City into travel rotation. Sometime that year, Gentry and Blackburn reconnected through another expatriate, Paris-influenced artist, Romare Bearden, who already had been experimenting with collagraph and intaglio techniques at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop (RBPMW). Gentry collaborated and explored printmaking techniques with his many friends at the RBPMW until he died in 2003.
L'Homme Vert (The Green Man) is an homage to a dear friend and colleague. In the center of a richly etched surface is an expressionistic portrait of Blackburn, surrounded by fellow artists and friends. A yellow hand below the artist's mammoth green head references Blackburn's work ethic, his dedication to the art of printmaking is paramount. Gentry's experimentation of sugar-lift aquatint gives this etching a marvelously rich, pulsing surface. The lines and shapes appear cracked and broken like old paint. Loosely drawn heads emerge from this overall treatment to the plate, and it is with select use of color, Gentry highlights the figurative elements and clarifies the loose narrative. Gentry's and Blackburn's relationship and the experimental development of this print, reflect the ongoing mission of RBPMW: a commitment "...to inspiring and fostering a racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse artistic community dedicated to the making of fine art prints in an environment that embraces technical and aesthetic exploration, innovation and collaboration."