Pratt Profile: Frank Bagrowski is In Touch with His “Inner Archivist”

Posted In: State Library Resource Center, Pratt Profiles
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By Lisa Greenhouse

Series: Pratt Profiles

Frank freely admits that he is obsessed... borderline OCD. When he sees an image that he likes, he has to have it. Other people might collect stamps or coins. Frank is a collector of images.

That's one of the reasons that Frank spends so much time at the photocopy machine in the Periodicals Department. "Hours," he says. He loses track of time. The 20 minutes to closing announcement comes "like a jolt."

Frank Bagrowski

Where does he put the images that he copies from the covers and interior pages of newspapers and magazines? Frank says that there are "stacks and piles and milk crates" of images in the Charles Village art studio that he shares with a friend. Athletes in motion copied from the Sports pages, certain advertisements, certain paintings from art magazines: these and other images are captured by Frank, the Image Collector.

The images help to inform Frank's artistic sensibility. A MICA graduate (Class of 1976), Frank specializes in gestural, figurative, and portrait drawing using pencil and charcoal.

There is another reason why one is likely to find Frank bent over the Periodicals Department photocopy machine. Living as he does in a city with a large, excellent public library, Frank makes optimum use of the library collection. He is a slow reader, he likes to absorb every word, and he likes to follow a good argument. So Frank copies periodical articles. That way he can savor the articles at home over coffee, taking as much time with them as he pleases. He engages in "marathon reading sessions."

Frank has been coming to the Central Library since 1968. He grew up in Linthicum, MD, and used to take the bus down to the library. He moved to the city in 1974.

He likes articles from all perspectives and persuasions as long as they exhibit critical thinking, discourse, and argumentation. He wants to read well explicated, well thought out articles—especially ones about art, and more especially ones about his favorite artists: Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, and Alberto Giacometti.

One dime per page turns out to be a lot more affordable than subscribing to multiple expensive periodicals. When I ask Frank which magazines he copies from, he replies, "Art news, Artforum International, Art in America, The Atlantic, Harper's, Commentary, The New Criterion, The Nation, and National Review, among others."

Periodicals on Table

"OK Frank, very intellectual and all, but I've known you to ask me for People magazine every once in awhile. What's up with that?" Back to Frank, the Image Collector. It's the celebrity pics he's after.

"I'm transfixed by beauty... like Michelangelo." Maybe if Michelangelo were alive today, he would be huddled over some Roman or Florentine photocopy machine, making copies from Gente magazine for his own image collection.

Frank is done with the day's copying. He heads off to take in some shows at local art galleries.

Even if you are not an image collector like Frank, you have to admit he has a good idea when he copies his week's reading from an eclectic set of periodicals then settles down at a coffee shop or at home on his comfy sofa for a long reading session. The Periodicals Department charges a very reasonable ten cents for a black & white copy and fifty cents for a color copy. Its collection of current periodicals is large and diverse—the retrospective collection is about the size of a football field, maybe even larger. Come experience it for yourself. Bring a few dimes.

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