When it comes to spending time with artworks, circumstance gives color to every scene and situation. This year the IFPDA Print Fair coincided with a tempest so severe that it temporarily hobbled New York City’s infrastructure. Dealers spoke of lost inventory, of ruined walls and waterlogged electrical systems. Images of disaster and tales of desperation and misery commanded news channels and radio waves. And yet the overall spirit of the fair seemed relatively undiminished. Visitors came, prints sold; it was a microcosm of healthy enterprise.
While there were many new and interesting prints on display, the works that struck this writer as particularly poignant were those that came into serendipitous concordance with the storm. Kiki Smith’s seven-print edition Seven Seas (2012) at Harlan & Weaver was one such work. In these notebook-size etchings clouds roil and loom over choppy waters. The rich tonal quality of the gray scale in these prints comes from the aquatint process used to produce them. After the printing, Smith painted the boulders and crags in the foreground with watercolors, giving the hard forms a many-hued softness. She used gouache to accentuate the upward spray of water where waves crash upon rocks. These hand-touches make each work in the edition unique.