At the center of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Print/Out” exhibition, in the midst of the bright screenprints and the rough woodcuts, the loud wallpaper and the quiet wallbound etchings, sits a curious construction on a low plinth: two wooden folding chairs face each other as if in conversation, suspending between them an apparatus composed of two black accordion bellows, one sticking up and one dropping down, some pretty brass hinges, and a nifty sliding wooden drawer (Fig. 1). It looks like a Surrealist sculpture—an onanistic camera, perhaps. In fact, it is the “portable aquatint box” of the printer and publisher Jacob Samuel, the nucleus of a mobile printshop that he has lugged to artists’ studios around the world. Read More
Enrique Chagoya describes himself as both a painter and a printmaker, and indeed, an understanding of his prints is essential to any meaningful discussion of his work. His interest in the graphic arts began when he first saw Goya’s etchings as a teenager; he illustrated books and drew political cartoons while studying political economics at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in the 70s; and he made his first suite of prints as an art student at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and the University of California, Berkeley in the 80s (Homage to Goya II: Disasters of War (2003)). Read More In the late 1990s, when the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago was packing up to prepare for renovations, a batch of brown-paper wrapped parcels was discovered tucked into a small, hidden space above the regular storage bins. They contained posters, most of them never accessioned by the museum, presumably because at the time they were received they didn’t quite seem to be proper “prints.” Read More Graffiti, street art, and their printed progeny, now ubiquitous, may appear to have sprung fully formed from the spray cans and stencils wielded by a new breed of artist, operating outside the system and eschewing the traditions. But like any other art form, street art has a rich vocabulary of sources and precedents. Read More Among the very first items accessioned by the Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design (founded in 1877 along with the school where I teach) was a set of etchings by Salvator Rosa. Although the artist made the plates in the 17th century, the impressions are from the 1870s, printed in reddish-brown ink on 19th century paper. Read More Read MoreFew artists who adopt printmaking as their primary means of expression achieve international critical acclaim. Museums and collectors often prefer prints by artists who have established reputations in painting, sculpture or installation work, their printmaking fitting into an overall hierarchy that values the unique over the multiple. Christiane Baumgartner is an exception, an artist of international stature who has chosen printmaking as her principle activity. ‘I have need of great ideas, and I believe that if I were commanded to design a new universe, I should have the folly to undertake such a thing.’ —Giambattista PiranesiThe 18th century printmaker Giambattista Piranesi is best known for his views of Rome (Vedute di Roma), those beautifully observed, deeply Romantic evocations of decrepit grandeur, and for his loose and labyrinthine invented prisons, the Carceri. Both have been hallmarks of refined, if slightly dusty, interiors for two centuries, but a recent exhibition at Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice argued for a new view of the artist as a multi-tasking globalist in tune with 21st century technological adventurism. Read More Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples, 1960 to Now (2006); and Committed to Print: Social and Political Themes in Recent American Printed Art (1988), and published extensively on subjects ranging from Russian avant-garde books to Louise Bourgeois. She was also responsible for a significant expansion of the department’s holdings, particularly in areas of less traditional print production, though for her last exhibition she returned to MoMA’s roots with a close look at the creative process of MoMA’s most axiomatic artist in Picasso: Themes and Variations. Currently she is working at the museum as Chief Curator Emerita, completing the catalogue raisonné of the prints of Louise Bourgeois (MoMA has an archive devoted to the artist’s printed work.) Read MoreDeborah Wye recently retired as The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at The Museum of Modern Art. Over the course of her 31 years at MoMA, she organized and co-organized many major exhibitions, including Thinking Print: Books to Billboards, 1980–95 ; In 1613, the Augsburg engraver Lucas Kilian produced a set of three broadsheets of human anatomy that are some of the most intricate early examples of interactive prints extant. Composed of several layers of engraving, letterpress and etching that were cut, stacked, and glued together as liftable flaps, these prints allowed the viewer to dissect male and female corpses as a didactic exercise. Read More
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