DRAWING, LITHOGRAPHY, ETCHING, PHOTOLITHOGRAPHY, COLLOTYPE, DIGITAL PIGMENT PHOTOGRAPHS,
PRIMARILY FROM THE COLLECTION OF EDWARD FAUSTY
Works on paper by:
Jessica Lenard, Bruce Waldman, Tim Daly, Elizabeth Harington, Nancy Cohen, Scherer and Ouporov, Kiki Smith, Accra Shepp, Tomomi Ono, Edward Fausty, Kathleen Fonseca, Diane Zeitlin, Richard Benson, Karen Gaines, Donna Compton
Images are provided within the essay below.
As a child sitting alone in my room, I pondered the hippos and whales in frames on the walls. These objects had a quality different from objects in three dimensions; they were flat and still, but were nevertheless animated in a mysterious way. I have since spent much time working with pictures, although I may be no closer to penetrating their mystery.
One of the things we can ponder about pictures is how they were made. In this exhibit, we have the chance to compare pictures with very different etiologies. Artists have chosen media that for whatever reason appeal to them as a lifelong pursuit; others as a solution to a present need. Either way, a kind of mastery develops and a work of art is the result.
Tim Daly's charcoal drawing employs one of the oldest and simplest methods: rubbing something dirty on a slightly bumpy surface. Tim was able to evoke a sense of interior light with his skillful use of charcoal.
Nancy Cohen draws, too, but with paper pulp on paper pulp to make drawing and paper simultaneously. She calls them pulp drawings, and many approach 8 feet square and often refer to her 3D pieces. Tomomi Ono rubs oily crayon onto a stone she has ground to perfect flatness. Then she treats the stone chemically with a mixture of nitric acid and gum Arabic to stabilize the image for printing. She removes the drawing mediums from the stone with solvent and replaces them with ink. And then she rolls oil based ink over it after sponging the surface with water, which is repelled by her marks, allowing the ink to stick there. She uses a press to squeeze paper to the stone, creating a lithographic print. She repeats this to make her editions of delicate prints (this is an over simplification, of course - her mastery involves many refinements to the basic process.)
Suzanne Scherer and Pavel Ouporov (an artistic duo), Jessica Lenard, Bruce Waldman and Elizabeth Harington all make intaglio prints, or etchings. They coat a metal plate with a resist and draw skillfully and idiosyncratically thru the resist with a stylus. Then they etch the plate with acid, which burns the drawing into the metal in relief. When ink is rubbed on and off the plate, it sticks in the drawing crevices and not the rest of the plate. A wet piece of paper is pressed onto the plate with a powerful press, pushing the paper fibers into the engraved areas and absorbing the ink into the fibers. The artists also add tone to the print in various ways, such as by adding metal particles (aquatint) creating more surface to hold washes of ink rather than lines.
Some of the etchings have been scanned and printed large on similar if not identical papers to reveal the corrosive details. I call these expanded etchings. This process was developed when I worked with Elizabeth Harington in the 1990's. There is sometimes a violent world hidden within an etching.
Please click to enlarge individual images with captions.
It was exciting to see how printmakers worked as I worked along side them at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in New York City, trying to teach myself the elusive collotype process. I had been inspired by my teacher, master printer Richard Benson, to use ink and paper to make my photographs.
Benson's photolithographs were made in a repeated series of laborious steps. Once the edition was completed for the first plate, a new plate was made to improve and refine the first layer, often using different colors of gray ink. He would use about 7 plates to build up a full-toned luminous print like the one shown here. The toxicity and complexity were daunting to me.
Fortunately, I found a much more flexible process (and MUCH less controllable, too) in collotype, also called photo-gelatin printing. Collotype's gelatin surfaced plates were exposed directly from my large negatives with no screening. And they could produce different prints depending on ink viscosity because they had no dots. As my teacher did, I made multiple and varying passes on the press, but without having to bring in and register a new plate. It was fun, and I could at least pretend I was following in Benson's footsteps.
Kiki Smith is not primarily known for her photography. But I was asked if I might produce a collotype edition of one of her 35mm color slides. To do so with the wild and uncontrollable collotype was scary, so I cheated a bit; I had screened color separations made, from which I made collotype plates that were easier to ink and print consistently (this process historically was called Aquatone.)
Photographer Accra Shepp asked me to help him print Atlas, a book of literal leaves sandwiched under a thin and transparent layer of handmade paper. Needless to say, it was a challenge. The collotypes of Accra's in the show are printers proofs from Atlas, made prior to the final printing on the leaf paper.
The remainder of the photographs are modern digital pigment prints. Here the digital file on the computer hard drive can be considered analogous to the printing plate. The print head does not even touch the paper as it moves back and forth; it spits drops of ink across a narrow gap between it and the paper, which is moved line by line in perfect synchronization with the head. For this reason, it can print on certain coarse media that would baffle lithography, but it's very thin layer of liquid ink tends to sink into paper and get lost. Therefore, most inkjet papers are coated, obscuring, to some extent, the real stuff beneath.
Kathleen Fonseca's pigment print is from a scan of an old Polaroid SX-70 instant print sandwich that she manipulated during development. My Rootneg is from a scan of a gooey Polaroid negative later printed on Japanese scroll paper. Scanning is a powerful way of capturing a high resolution digital file of a 2D original. Jan Kounitz's damaged 35mm negative was scanned and printed in digital pigment as well; a quirky photo of a nude photo workshop in wild California of days gone by.
The rest of of the photographs in Artists Proof are direct digital capture. Diane Zeitlin had her camera handy as she sat down to a drink in a restaurant. Karen Gaines used Adobe Photoshop to select the nominal subject and drain the rest of the image of color. Her subject is women, and the pictures contain strong narratives about how the world and women interact. I made her prints on beautiful uncoated Rives BFK paper, rarely used for photographs.
Donna Compton's pigment print came from the marred surface of a burnt pot, which she photographed and then printed. She is a busy person and often burns pots. I look forward to seeing more pictures of same. Edward Fausty's Worlds are digital pigment photographs on his favorite Japanese inkjet paper, Aya White, which has a glow similar to other thin papers from that part of the world.
What do all these pictures have in common? Something we see less and less of: paper. We have a very convenient alternative now, the lcd screen on our ubiquitous magic devices. But having a picture on a piece of paper is still the small miracle it has been for me all my life. And it's still there when someone pulls the plug.....
28 March, 2019