One Night Only – Crap Forever

The following is a guest post by Michael Krueger. He originally presented it as part of Print Kucha at SGCI in St. Louis. It consists of twenty images and accompanying text.

One Night Only – Crap Forever: The Enduring Impact of Print Ephemera from the 1960’s- 1970’s on Contemporary Art

The Screw, Volume 1, Number 6, May 16, 1969, Kansas City, Missouri

The Screw was an underground paper that mixed erotic images and activist literature. The erotic images are exactly what you are thinking they might be, naked pictures of hippies with cats, and hookah bongs and ugly ceramics. What I am interested in is the crappy quality of the printing, the sense of urgency, disposability and charged unabashed content.

Reconstruction, Volume 1, Number 5, April 21, 1969, Lawrence, KS

The Reconstruction got the word out on protest rallies and where to buy handmade leather sandals. While the printing and designs may have been thoughtful, there just wasn’t enough time for perfection.

Fifth Estate, Volume 5, Number 19, January 1971, Detroit, MI

In 1971, Fifth Estate, published a report on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War Detroit hearing on U.S. war crimes. The term “Fifth Estate” is a reference to the voice of the lowest or most marginalized class in society.  And in opposition to the First Estate (the Clergy), the Second Estate (the Nobility), the Third Estate (the Commoners) and the Fourth Estate (the Press).

Jamie Reid, Anarchy in the UK, Newspaper, 1976

In 1976, Jamie Reid a British artist and anarchist designed Anarchy in the UK, published what could be considered the first punk newspaper. Reid created these images to evoke urgency but unlike the hippie publications they were also designed to evoke fear.

Jamie Reid, Music Keeps You Under Control, screenprint,  12” x 16”,  2005

Reoccurring imagery was the norm for Reid and other punk artists, it worked as a way to get the stuff under the skin, in the corners of the publics lobes. These seminal designs have impacted the graphic consciousness, what was once created for a diminutive movement of disenfranchised youths is now common fodder for most graphic designers.

Cramps / Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, concert flyer, Pasadena, CA, circa 1983

This tack continues in the US with the great punk movements in California and elsewhere, but at a much more grassroots level. Xerox unwittingly makes a huge contribution to punk rock.

Fear / M.I.A., concert flyer, Los Angeles, CA, circa 1982

These hippie newspapers and punk flyers have become a kind of bi-polar influence on contemporary printmaking, and bring the usefulness of crappy printing into a new context for many contemporary artists. Of course Raymond Pettibon comes to mind, no break in the chain there, but what if we go a little further back to Proto-Pop.

Robert Rauschenberg, Accident, lithograph, 41” x 29”, 1963

Rauschenberg might be one of the first really crappy contemporary printmakers, in the best possible way. In this print The Accident we see perhaps the birth of the Happy Accident. Cracks and all it was gutsy to publish Rauschenberg’s print, with his nod to Duchamp and a careless smack to traditional printmaking.

Robert Rauschenberg, Breakthrough II, lithograph, 48.5” x 34”, 1965

He repeats his accident over and over in several later lithographs, although the accident is now much more contrived and his marks become more self-referential, slowly creeping towards postmodernism. In this print, Breakthrough II, Rauschenberg choses a stone that already had a hairline crack – it’s no longer an accident- it’s a technique.

John Cage, Eninka 28, smoked paper monotype with branding on gampi paper chine colle, 1986

Was John Cage a punk printmaker, or maybe more of a soulful bohemian bending Zen through the press? For this series of prints Cage burned newspapers on the press, laid a thin piece of paper a top the fire and ran it through the press. The publishers hesitated to call it a print.

Andy Warhol, Tunafish Disaster, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 53” x 52”, 1963

Tunafish Disaster, 1963. Warhol refined the crappy print and then trademarked it. He encouraged even demanded that accidents happen while printing. Like a poorly printed or smudged newspaper his paintings are hard to read, anxious, urgent and worrisome.

Andy Warhol, Gangster Funeral, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas, 105” x 75 3/8”, 1963

Quote- “Warhol introduced a degree of painterliness (…) through deliberately casual lapses in his silkscreen technique’s mechanical quality control.” End quote– from the essay Painting Death in America by Neil Printz. Yes- Neil Printz! Really.. painterliness, not crappy printing?

Sam Durant, We are The People, Electric Sign with vinyl text, 48” x 77” x 11”, 2003, (installation view, Project Row Houses, Houston, TX)

Sam Durant is a contemporary artist who uses very directly the protest signage of a by gone era to twist this nostalgia and invite a kind of lament for a time when rushing out to ask why and what for meant something. The texts are sourced from photographs of protest marches, sit ins, uprisings or other events around liberation struggles.

Sam Durant, Ask Us What We Want, Electric sign with vinyl text, 62” x 93.5” x 11”, 2008

He choses text from protest signage that taken out of context does not relate to a specific event, in other words, texts that could have more than one meaning depending on the context or time in which they are seen. He is very careful to reproduce the texts exactly as they existed in the original signage.

William Powhida, Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell (new and unimproved), screenprint, 30.25″x 23″, 2010

This recent print by William Powhida takes on the task of getting the word out, with an intentional slappy crappy use of font and design. It doesn’t matter because the message delivers the knock out punch – but unlike underground papers, and punk posters his message, with a wink, suggests conformity as a means to the end. He is aware and now you are aware so beware.

Cammi Climaco, Hero Worship, screenprint, flocking, and hand additions on wood veneer, 17″ x 20″, 2010

Cammi Climaco’s beautifully sparse screenprint on wood veneer titled Hero Worship, appears to be a truncated nod to the classic Woodstock poster while simultaneously bouncing forward to the video game Guitar Hero. The subject matter may be low culture but there is nothing crappy about this print- it is sophisticated and wholly technically satisfying.

Glen Baldridge, The Tripper- On 4.20, Hippie Blood Will Trickle Down / Shrooms- Get Ready to Get Wasted edition, handmade paper, 38” x 54”, 2006-2007

The Brooklyn artist Glen Baldridge reinterprets shitty movie posters for even shittier movies. The movies Tripper and Shrooms are essentially slasher movies for stoners; or drug movies for people who do drugs to do drugs to. These are actually not prints at all but exquisitely crafted and editioned handmade paper pieces.

Butt Johnson, Untitled (Rose/Cycloid), color aquatint etching with ultraviolet fluorescent ink, 10” x 8”, 2008

Butt Johnson, not his real name, created this ingenious print in which he plays with hackneyed popular imagery and seeks to transform, elevate and deflate the imagery from low to high and back again.

Butt Johnson, Untitled (Rose/Cycloid), color aquatint etching with ultraviolet fluorescent ink, 10” x 8”, 2008

What you don’t know at first glance is that he has subverted this process by printing a secret layer of aquatint that is only revealed in black light. The images and content are flipped again and again like a light switch – and all the while you can’t help but holdfast to the printed image – as a highly crafted traditional intaglio print.

Steve Lambert, OUT OF IDEAS, screenprint with coffee, whiskey, and beer hand additions on torn, crumpled, and burnt paper, 23″ x 30″, 2010

Finally, this pathetic print by Steve Lambert barks- Out of Ideas! This print comes with a laundry list of ingredients including; screenprint with coffee, whiskey, and beer, with hand additions on torn, crumpled, and burnt paper. Quite and elaborate list techniques for a print with a stain and a clunky font.

A misprint whether intentional or not, still leaves an imprint and when suited for the image and content- the message, the maker and the medium merge. Long Live Crappy Prints!

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Categories: Critical Discourse

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