Monday, May 12, 2014

Read Make Walk Think Write

"Sometime in the near future it may be necessary for the writer to be an artist as well as for the artist to be a writer."
Lippard & Chandler, 1969

It has been a year since I had opened the book Materializing Six Years, Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art. With the close of the school year, it is now officially summer, the season for delicious time in the studio. Long days to read, make, walk, think, and write. Re-reading Lippard brings back into focus all the "good ideas" I had last year. How is it possible that they have gotten pushed--squished--into the back corners of my mind? Meanwhile my mind has been filled with the details of survival: How much transparent base will I need to last the semester? What other ways are there to demonstrate the long & link stitch more clearly? Can Art Club fulfill it's destiny of being cooler than it sounds? 

Today I feel like I did when I was a kid with the summer stretching out in front of me, full of possibility. But the fact is that I am an adult and summer will be over before I know it. I can not linger too long with thoughts of the past--I intend to move forward...but before I do, I wish to take a moment to look back at the artists I was thinking about last year: Ellen Gallagher, Kiki Smith, Margaret Kilgallen, Blexbolex, Hedi Kyle, Ann Hamilton, and Shoichi Kitamura.

Ellen Gallagher
In the commercial world new technologies often render old technologies obsolete—however, art enjoys a kind of freedom from this. Historically we see that the invention of lithography has not made woodblock printing an obsolete artistic expression. As technologies develop, printmaking has the luxury to bring together multiple processes. In DeLuxe, Gallagher works alongside a master printer to create this 60 component print. They combine everything from etching to laser cut paper to Plasticine. This a clear example of how digital and analogue processes together extend the possibilities of print.

      DeLuxe, by Ellen Gallager, 2004-5, printed and published by Craig Zammiello of Two Palms Press                  Installation view 6 x 12 ft.

Detail of DeLuxe, component size: 13 x 10 inches
Kiki Smith
My Blue Lake was created in 1995—about 5 years before the digital technology that could create this image would became common place. In order to achieve the effect of taking a three dimensional object and visually laying it out flat, Smith turned to old technology--a periphery camera— a 1940’s technology used for photographing cylindrical objects.

My Blue Lake by Kiki Smith, 1995, 43 x 55 inches, Printed and published by Universal Art Limited Editions, Medium: etching with photo gravure, a la poupee inking and lithography

Margaret Kilgallen
I appreciate Kilgallen’s use of letterform as image and the way in which she embraced the character of line quality created by her hand.

Friend and Foe by Margaret Kilgallen, 1999, Installation view Dietch Projects, NYC
These are four views from the commercially published book Seasons. While Blexbolex illustrates using the computer, it’s clear to me that he has an understanding of screenprinting. Despite the fact that he doesn’t use this analogue technique to create his images, he does use the language of printmaking. Paper is considered a primary element in the image. A limited pallet of transparent colors overlap to create a complex use of color. He applies the limitations of analog printmaking to his imagery, rather than simply using the seemingly endless digital processes.

Seasons by Blexbolex (four views), 2010, Published by Enchanted Lions Books

Hedi Kyle
I noticed a folded paper structure sitting on the shelf the first day I arrived at the Wells Book Arts Center in the fall of 2011—and I really fell in love with it. I discovered that the artist was Hedi Kyle, one of my teachers in graduate school. She is very accomplished in the craft of books and conservation, yet her work is not confined by the traditions of craft. Years after having her as my teacher, I see how brave her work is and that she models an art practice where understanding is gained through making.
Untitled, by Hedi Kyle, 2009, 3 x 3 x 3 inches, Medium: clementine wrappers
Ann Hamilton
In December 2012 I went to Ann Hamilton’s installation at the Armory. It is a complicated, multiple media installation, quite difficult to describe succinctly. I am going to pare it down for you by saying—imagine this: people, swings, pulleys, a large curtain of moving fabric, birds, performers, singing, reading, writing, wireless-speakers, recording for vinyl, radio transmissions, and the internet. 
Installation view, photo by Tae Won Yu
Mirah and I on one of the swings, photo by Tae Won Yu
But what I wish to focus on is this: after spending over 3 hours at the installation, I left with a newspaper that had been printed specifically for The Event of a Thread. And this got me thinking about a quote that I really like by Johanna Drucker.
“Whenever we make a work, now, I think we are aware that it is not just a book, painting, drawing, sculpture, but an argument about what a book, painting, drawing, sculpture or other aesthetic expression can be and might be in our times.”
Johanna Drucker
The State of the Book:
A Conversation By Johanna Drucker and Buzz Spector
The California Printmaker, 2011

Newspaper ephemera from The Event of a Thread, by Ann Hamilton, 2012
Detail of Newspaper ephemera from The Event of a Thread
Hamilton uses the newspaper as a kind of colophon for the installation. It is a structure that holds the artists’ statement, her source material, her research and acknowledgements.

However, Hamilton is not using the form of a newspaper simply as a way to convey content, but because it’s form has content–As Johanna Drucker might say: Hamilton makes an argument about what a newspaper can be and might be in our times.

Shoichi Kitamura
In the summer of 2011, I visited my carving teacher, Kitamura-san at his studio in Japan. He showed me a ton of work he had done as a professional carver in Japan. These are three of four prints from a Wilson Sheih portfolio. Kitamura had carved the blocks for this project. I really like Wilson Sheih’s work, so of course these were a pleasure to see, but honestly—as a person working with these processes—if find these to be technically amazing.
Artist: Wilson Sheih, Carver: Shoichi Kitamura, Printer: STPI, Title: Music Families (view of three of the four prints from the portfolio), 2009, 26.5 x 19 inches

Detail of Music Families, Artist: Wilson Sheih, Carver: Soichi Kitamura, Printer: STPI
Another project that Kitamura showed me during that visit, was two prints that he had carved and printed for the artist Andrew Brook of Melbourne, Australia. While Kitamura is a master carver by trade, he is also an accomplished printer. Brook typically works with photographic images and collage elements, that are then printed as lithographs. But in this project Brook took a photograph with a collaged newspaper headline, and enlarged it on the Xerox copier. He gave this to Kitamura and had him “translate” the image to the process of mokuhanga.
Detail View of Xerox copy Collage by Brook Andrew, 2009, 38 x 26
Detail view of mokuhanga print, Title: Even a Failing Mind Feels the Tug of History, 2009, Artist: Brook Andrew, Carver and Printer: Shitochi Kitamura, 38 x 26
Detail of Xerox copy college by Brook Andrew, 2009, 38 x 26
Detail view of mokuhanga print, Title: Legions of War Widows Face Dire Need in Iraq, 2009, Artist: Brook Andrew, Carver and Printer: Shitochi Kitamura, 38 x 26 caption

These are huge prints. Kitamura demonstrated to me how he uses his feet to place the paper in the registration system. These are truly amazing technical achievements, but also very strange as an idea and as an image. The mokuhanga printed image is beyond real. And this idea that an artist appropriates a photo and a newspaper clipped headline, makes a duplicate with a Xerox machine, then hires a master carver and printer from Japan to then make another duplicate is fascinating. And made even stranger, when you consider there are very very few people who could technically accomplish this.

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