Rico Lebrun was a maverick, an artist of deep humanity and broad sympathies. A draftsman, painter, and sculptor of great accomplishment and international recognition, he constantly sought to transform his natural virtuosity into something deeper and more elemental. His life was devoted to the monumental (and transparently impossible) purpose of accurately mapping the terra incognita of the human form and human heart.
These letters written between 1950 and 1964, as he moved between the United States, Mexico, and Italy, give the reader an intimate and extended glance into the impassioned crucible of his mind and soul. Lebrun belonged to a generation to which art was, and had to be, something more than abstract compositions or cerebral exercises. For him, art was a force, a profoundly moral force, that could construct and shape an edifice containing all the inconsistency, drama, and inner conflict of the human animal, from its capacity for cruelty, its proclivity for war and its indifference to the nuclear threat to its sublime moments of grace.
His letters are tender, outspoken, humorous, and often perplexed. Selected and edited by James Renner and the artist’s son, David Lebrun, they address the forging of a new visual language and comfort friends in crisis; they are bursting with life, demonstrative of fierce love, filled with wisdom and mercilessly articulate. This is in every sense an artist’s book, one illustrated with the best of his prolific work and adorned by a prose that is poetic, engaged, and infused with an earnest, almost naive, devotion to the potential of the human spirit.