Stepping Stones: Garo Antreasian and American Lithography

Book Review

  • Garo Z. Antreasian: Reflections on Life and Art

  • By Garo Z. Antreasian with an introduction by William Peterson
  • 368 pages, 250 color illustrations
  • Published by University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2015
  • $39.95

Garo Antreasian’s contributions to the art and technology of lithography in post–World War II America are well-known, and parts of the story told in his recently published book will be familiar to many readers—the struggle to advance printmaking in mid-century America; the transformative agenda of Tamarind Lithography Workshop, which he helped launch in 1960, its reincarnation at the University of New Mexico in 1970, and Antreasian’s own ongoing technical curiosity and pursuit of formal abstraction. But this volume is not a survey; it is a memoir, personal and revealing, and touches on events that range from the tragedy of the artist’s Armenian ancestors to the balancing of personal responsibilities in the contemporary art world. A reflective family history unfolds in early chapters and its legacy resurfaces periodically throughout the book, woven in along with Antreasian’s education, travels and artistic development.

Though his artistic reputation rests largely on his prints, Antreasian rebuffs the notion that he is “just” a printmaker. His paintings were exhibited in New York as early as the 1940s and by the end of the 1980s he had abandoned printmaking for the most part in favor of painting and drawing. Nonetheless, his love of lithography took hold early and lasted long. While attending Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis in the late 1930s, Antreasian taught himself how to make lithographs using discarded supplies and a press in the school basement. In 1940 he enrolled in the Herron School of Art, also in Indianapolis, to study painting and drawing and to continue his independent study of lithography (though the school had printing equipment, it had stopped teaching lithography in the 1930s). Antreasian’s tenure at Herron was interrupted by World War II, in which he served as a war artist in the Coast Guard. After the war he finished his degree and by 1948 was teaching full-time at Herron. That summer he made his first trip to New York, where he met and became friendly with William Lieberman, curator of prints and drawings at the Museum of Modern Art, and the following summer he returned to work at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 and to study with Will Barnet at the Art Students League.

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