Art in Print: a new critical resource

Art in Print launches this May as a new resource that “aims to serve the needs of the international museum, collector, artist, scholar, and print dealer communities.”

The project will consist of a website and a bi-monthly PDF journal. The site will offer links, reviews, news, and event listings, and the journal will publish substantive academic articles. The entire first issue will be available for free download; subsequent issues will be available on a subscription model.

This effort is led by Susan Tallman, who should need no introduction to most readers of this blog. Tallman’s essays on printed art are serious, open-minded, and interesting to read; her involvement alone may be enough to endorse this new project. But here are some additional tidbits from the first issue that might attract your attention:

  • Paul Coldwell on the woodcuts of Christiane Baumgartner
  • Adam Lowe on new objects created from the 18th century etchings of Giambattista Piranesi
  • Suzanne Karr Schmidt on lift-the-flap anatomy prints during the Renaissance
  • A conversation between retiring MoMA print curator Deborah Wye and Susan Tallman

Art in Print is seeking your input, too. News is welcome, along with suggestions for articles “related to the history or current state of artists’ prints, in the broadest sense of the term.” Check their site for information about submissions.

Art in Print has allowed Printeresting to preview Susan Tallman’s editorial statement, along with an excerpt from Paul Coldwell’s article “Christiane Baumgartner Between States.” Coldwell’s essay will be published in full in the first issue; both texts follow after the break.

Let’s face it: print is where it’s at. As Tallman notes in her essay: “Take a walk through the contemporary wing of your local museum and count the number of works that do not employ print media, imitate print media, or allude to print media.  You probably won’t need both hands.” If you make prints, or like to think about them, Art in Print seems like a safe bet.

This could become a great resource for the community of print artists. Check it out!

An Introduction: Art in Print

By Susan Tallman

Leo Steinberg put it best:  “without prints you don’t understand the culture of the world.”  Steinberg, who died in March, wrote about everything from Christ’s genitalia to Jasper Johns’ targets, but what he collected was prints.  Thousands and thousands of them—reproductive prints, original prints, hand-drawn working proofs; unprepossessing documents of lost masterpieces and independent works of visual splendor.  He collected prints over their full geographical and chronological range because he was as interested in the ideas that connected these things as he was in the things themselves.

Prints have given us the modern world—the world made possible by Ivins’ ‘exactly repeatable pictorial statements.’  Once upon a time, those statements were created with weighty slabs of wood or copper or stone, objects that could be hauled out of a closet after a century-and-a-half, inked up, and launched back into service (see “Printed Bodies” in this issue).  These days the template may be an altogether flightier thing: a jumble of binary markers that requires another jumble of binary markers to be translated into a set of electronic signals that, somewhere down the road, bring into being things we can see.  Sometimes those things are not really ‘things’ at all, but evanescent pixels leaping on a screen; sometimes those things are two-meter-long woodcuts or two-ton stone altars. (see “Christiane Baumgartner Changing States” and “New Work by Giovanni Battista Piranesi”).

We have come to take the action of the template as a matter of course.  We don’t expect images, objects, texts, or conversations to happen directly.  We assume the existence of go-betweens, of devices, of mediation between the instigator and the recipient.  So it is hardly surprising that many of the essential attributes of printed images have become fundamental to contemporary art.  Take a walk through the contemporary wing of your local museum and count the number of works that do not employ print media, imitate print media, or allude to print media.  You probably won’t need both hands.Art historians, meanwhile, have followed Steinberg’s lead and retreated from the masterpiece paradigm that had governed the discipline for decades (singular moment + singular genius = singular masterpiece).  Instead, historians and curators increasingly look at art objects more as very interesting nodes in a network of cultural exchanges (see “Embracing the Whole Story”.)  All this makes ‘the print’ a topic that is both slippery and urgent.

This is why we have started Art in Print.  The publication has taken shape over the past year through discussion with artists, historians, collectors, dealers, curators, and people who happened to be in print fairs because it was raining outside. Through the website we will make available up-to-the-minute information about prints for both print specialists and to the virtual equivalent of people taking refuge from the rain.  Through the subscription journal, we will delve deeper with important writing on prints and print issues, and to create a lasting archive of substantial articles and reviews.

Though for practical reasons the language of Art in Print will be English, we aim to have a global spread of subject matter, contributors and content.   We hope that Art in Print will act as a locus for ideas, analysis and representation of prints and the ideas that flow through and around them as, in Vito Acconci’s phrase, “instruments in the world.”


Excerpt from: Christiane Baumgartner Between States

By Paul Coldwell

Christiane Baumgartner’s work sits squarely within some of the key themes of recent German art. In her landscapes of ploughed fields and woodlands one senses Kiefer’s reclamation of the landscape as a site of memory, while in the oscillation between figuration and abstraction, Gerhard Richter is clearly influential, as is his use of photographic source material. But perhaps it is the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, in their detached, systematic and serial photographic documentation of the industrial landscape, that chimes most clearly with Baumgartner’s vision.…In Lisbon (2001), she established a practical working method that not only brought together digital and manual technologies but also placed time, its passing and perception, at the forefront of her art.  She worked from stills taken from a video that she shot from a motorway bridge, looking down onto the road.   She would select a still, manipulate it through Adobe Photoshop, impose a filter of horizontal lines reminiscent of the scan lines of analogue video, trace this onto a sheet of wood and then meticulously, using simple knives, cut the block, a process that could involve months of painstaking labour.  Her blocks are too large for a press, and must be inked and printed by hand, systematically rubbing the paper until the entire image is printed.

Having completed one print, it was apparent to Baumgartner that the idea of time and stasis would be more powerfully evident if the print were part of a set, so three more stills from the video were selected, each slightly different, and the process repeated. The final work, hung as a group, in a two-by-two grid (echoing the Bechers’ format for their photographs) immediately engages the viewer in the game of perceiving similarity and difference. In this remarkable work, each print of which measures 90 x 120 cm, Baumgartner sets out her intentions and position as an artist whose territory is the public space of the gallery or museum. While Baselitz and Kiefer before her had used grand scale to take woodcut into the realm of painting, they had been working within an expressionist tradition in which the print bears the evidence of the struggle between the artist and the wood.

Baumgartner chose to conceal this struggle, referencing instead the tradition of precision we see in an artist such as Dürer, whose prints are artefacts of the artist’s control.  (In Dürer’s Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (1497-98), for example, movement is rendered through a rigorous graphic language rather than through the recording of gesture. This print is of additional interest for the manner in which the sky is rendered through parallel lines, a device similar to Baumgartner’s horizontal cutting.)…

Baumgartner’s art is perverse. A fleeting second, a random video frame depicting a scene of no inherent importance, become the subject of intense physical effort over months, and in some cases years, as she transforms these chimeras into woodcuts. These are profound works that engage with contemporary themes and anxieties and demonstrate the vitality of printmaking as both a process and means of interrogating the world. In engaging in this dialogue between technologies —between digital and analogue, video and woodcut—she places herself in the mainstream of contemporary art.


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Categories: Critical Discourse, Print-related

2 Responses to “Art in Print: a new critical resource”

  1. axitia says:

    Fantastic addition.

  2. To Art in Print and Susan Kallman, I am sorry to jave missed you at the Print Fair in 2012, but I am now getting aquainted with Art in print, and will try to send a catalogue of importance about the Chaim Koppelman exhibition called Napoleon Entering New York recently at the MuseoNapoleonico in Rome. The articles on the prints have a relation of meaning and technqiue I think you would be interested in. I am glad to know of Art in Print. Dorothy Koppelman –also http://www.Chaim