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Exhibition of modern prints opens at Stanford Art Gallery

Mao in flamingo pink?

As he's rouged and buffed by Andy Warhol, the Chinese leader never looked more garish. Posed in warm yellows, he appears to be smiling benignly. In bilious green, the expression disintegrates into a grimace.

Visitors to the Stanford Art Gallery can pick their favorite hues from the five Warhol screenprints that date from the pop artist's 1972 Mao Tse-Tung Series. They are among 50 prints by modern American artists in the exhibition "Great Impressions: Selections from the Marmor Foundation and the Collection of Drs. Katherine and Judd Marmor" on display now through Dec. 14.

The exhibition gives visitors a first peek at one of several significant loans that have been made to the Stanford Museum of Art in recent years. Katherine and Judd Marmor, who began collecting art in the 1950s, were founding members of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. They and their son, Michael, a professor of ophthalmology at the Medical Center, have made 190 prints available through the end of the year 2000.

To celebrate the exhibition, Ruth E. Fine, curator of modern drawings and prints at the National Gallery of Art, will lecture on "Modern Masters: The Renaissance Revisited" at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Annenberg Auditorium. Fine is the author of a coffee table book, Gemini G.E.L.: Art and Collaboration, that showcases the experimentation with papers, inks and printing processes that have distinguished the Los Angeles fine-art print publisher.

Founded in 1966, Gemini was home to the nation's most innovative artists, many of whom have works in the current show ­ Francis, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Edward Kienholz, Robert Motherwell, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra and Frank Stella.

One of Fine's opening chapters looks at the work of Sam Francis, a San Mateo native who brings a study of Eastern thought to his work with many kinds of media. "His art is one of sensation," Fine writes, and she adds that Francis' lithographs "manifest his curiosity and playfulness." White Bone, a lithograph in the current exhibition that Francis completed for Gemini in 1971, conveys a sense of airiness and buoyancy, with bubbly blue forms that appear to float on a white background.

Fine also looks at the word and image messages that Nauman featured in printmaking, sculpture, installation, video, holography and photography. Clear Vision, a 1973 lithograph, positions black letters on a white ground but blurs and reverses the words to challenge what the viewer may take for granted in language and image. The message, which appears to have been chiseled on rock, is not clear, which suggests that Nauman may be asking: What is vision?

Pop art's Claes Oldenburg, the Swedish sculptor who works irreverent wonders with clothespins and ice bags, makes an appearance in the exhibition with lithographic odes to body parts and landscapes. His Sneaker Lace in Landscape ­ Blue, for example, recollects both palm trees and male anatomy.

Another section of the gallery features selections from Roy Lichtenstein's Haystack and Cathedral series, his 1969 tributes to Monet. The images are the same as the master Impressionist's but rendered in Benday dot patterns that are repeated in different colors to reflect altering moods and shifting times of the day. Red and blue dots blend in a purplish haze that suggest early evening or dawn, while pastel yellows shimmer like a lazy summer afternoon.