IFPDA Print Fair

This is a guest post by Benjamin Levy, a printmaker who spends his days as the Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs at the Baltimore Museum of ArtPrinteresting’s editors were unable to attend the IFPDA Print Fair this year in the wake of superstorm Sandy. Levy, a longtime friend of Printeresting, generously agreed to share his thoughts about this year’s fair.

The week following hurricane Sandy, I arrived in NYC Saturday morning by train from Baltimore, after four failed attempts in the days preceding. I got uptown to the Armory just in time to hear Susan Tallman, Editor-in-Chief of Art in Print, speaking with Louis Marchesano, Curator of Prints & Drawings at The Getty Research Institute. What I found intriguing, coming from a museum print department myself, was how the GRI has gone about creating a print collection in just a few decades, acquiring around 27,000 prints in the last 27 years. The structure of the GRI was also interesting: the print department works in close collaboration with the archives and libraries, bringing a holistic approach to the endeavor, which means they are able to weave complete stories through correspondence of artists, curators, and collectors, as well as works of art. Marchesano spoke about the continued scholarship in the area of reproductive prints; the field is becoming much less black and white (pun intended). Curators and scholars are distinguishing between copyists and those printmakers who were able to internalize paintings to the point of reproducing them in print. They are also highlighting the historical importance of reproductive prints. All in all, it was an interesting talk, but the fair was beckoning.

image of the Graphicstudio booth (via Graphicstudio blog)

Since I lost several days to the aftermath of storm, I was eager to make up for lost time and started on my systematic path through the aisles. I anticipated unfamiliar faces in booths after both hearing and experiencing the trouble of getting into the city, but I was pleasantly surprised that most dealers were there. The staff of IFPDA and the Armory did an amazing job putting the whole thing together under challenging circumstances. The mood was good among the exhibitors, who were happy so many people were able to make it, and pleased to show the work of their artists. Most said attendance was understandably light, but dedicated print people made it and sales were good. Many expected artists were absent; they were undoubtedly checking on their studios and helping out downtown galleries, or were trapped elsewhere. Luckily, James Sienna was able to show up for his tour!

What follows are my impressions (pun intended) as I wandered the aisles.

Carolina Nitsch’s large table was covered by Tauba Auerbach’s incredible pop-up book [2,3], published by Printed Matter, a mind-bending display of geometry and color. Also of note was a new suite of Thomas Schütte color etchings on vellum, Placebos.

I was sad to learn that Gemini G.E.L.’s new behemoth Richard Serra etchings didn’t make it to the fair, but that didn’t mean visitors were left empty handed. A new John Baldessari series of lithographs featuring a fish bowl in different color variants was on view. Baldessari being, well, Baldessari, took the fish bowl straight from a Matisse painting, and the color and text which appears below the images was appropriated from various soup cans. I had the great fortune of talking to founder Sidney Felsen about the project and the logistical hoops they encountered getting permission to use the Matisse painting. I wonder what Baldessari thinks about appropriation and the ever-changing laws.

If you were longing for the smell of ink, all you’d have to do is follow the aroma across the aisle to Two Palms Press where they were exhibiting Mel Bochner’s monoprints. These prints are made with copious amounts of oil paint–one of Two Palm’s many signature techniques–and feature Bochner’s prominent text, which ranges from poignant to humorous.

Durham Press was ever colorful with its recent large-scale works. A new woodblock, screenprint, and digital print collage by Mickalene Thomas, Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, was on view. Also on the wall was a triptych by Emil Lukas, Larva, Bubble & Thread – 1. In these prints, Lukas continues his use of thread and bubblewrap (screenprint and etching respectively), while introducing a new method of imagemaking using live larva (a multi-layered screenprint). Any visit to Durham wouldn’t be satisfying without an explosion of color brought to us by new unique and editioned works by Polly Apfelbaum!

Mixografía® had a very strong showing with a Baldessari series of found photographs with masses of blank paper infiltrating the scenes.

Also on view was a new work by Rachael Whiteread, Squashed. The Mixografía® process lends itself to her sculptural practice, in this case filling the void left by a crushed petrol can with paper while printing simultaneously. The can is part of her extensive collection of found objects; in a video for a recent show at Tate she explains that she has had this can since grad school.

Much more after the jump, including thoughts on Harlan & Weaver, Graphicstudio, Paragon, Crown Point, Tandem, ULAE, and Paulson-Bott!

Harlan & Weaver are publishers who speak softly but carry a big stick. This year their booth focused on the figurative etchings of Nicole Eisenman. Following a trip to the 2011 IFPDA Print Fair, Eisenman literally locked up her paints and ceremonially cleaned her studio in order to embark on a year of printmaking. During the past year, she has worked on monotypes at the Women’s Workshop, woodcuts at 10 Grand Press, lithographs at Jungle Press, and etchings at Harlan & Weaver. Eisenman is not an artist who dips her toe into the (strong) water (pun intended), rather she dives in. Twelve Heads, a print made up of 12 test plates printed together proves this. On it she experimented with every etching technique the master printers could throw at her, including dipping yarn and matchsticks in acid and arranging them on the plate. She went on to make a good number of small etchings, as well as a recent  group of larger prints, including a domestic interior called Watermark and a beer garden scene titled The Met.

Graphicstudio was showing in full force with new comic inspired photogravures by Christian Marclay, and great work by Carlos Garaicoa and Iva Gueorguieva.

London’s Paragon Press jumped across the pond and had an impressive booth featuring Shadow IV, a new series of 10 color etchings by Anish Kapoor. These works, like many by Kapoor, have a luminescent glow that pulls you into the saturated depths of the color. In addition, a portfolio of 38 etchings by Jake Chapman, Human Rainbow: from the blackened beyond, filled the front wall.Chapman takes as his entry point the work of a failed artist by the name of Adolph Hitler, adding his own imagery to the etchings that sometimes obscure the original images and other times leaves them to come through.

Crown Point Press, now in their golden year, offered not only their growing literary output (Kathan Brown’s memoir being the most recent) but also the fine-tuned etchings that one expects. Two new works from Shahzia Sikander, Mirror Plane and Orbit, were front and center. The artist layered deft calligraphic marks atop figures and printed them from so many plates it isn’t worth counting! Also recently published was a series of prints by Anne Appleby, who took as her inspiration the natural lifecycle of the Montana landscape. But you won’t see any pine needles or wood grain here; she distills each stage of growth and decay into a single color. Each square of saturated color is printed with four plates that have been burnished around the edges. With all four layers printed in transparent inks. The result resembles the gloss and tactility of glazed tiles.

Tandem Press showed the lithographs of Cameron Martin, a trio of ethereal landscapes that offered a hauntingly quiet moment amongst the visual chaos of the fair. The images activate the page, being offset to bleed to one side or corner. The faintness of the images draws you close to the page but the offset images keep you from fully falling into the pictorial space, creating a flickering figure-ground reversal.

ULAE did not disappoint–not that that is ever a concern. Richard Tuttle’s charming suite of drypoints on handmade paper, When Pressure Exceeds Weight I-IV, was selling quickly, and was hung near new work by James Rosenquist, who seems to be returning the viewers’ gaze with his use of mirrors. Also of note was a beautiful Jasper Johns print, as well as Mark Fox’s visually dense line work.

Paulson-Bott showed their wide ranging talents with the colorful photogravures and aquatints by Isca Greenfield-Sanders, dark multipart etchings by Gary Simmons, and rediscovered drypoints by Martin Puryear.

In addition to great works of art, the fair is a place to see amazing printers, artists, and friends in one place. It’s like a high school reunion, but one you actually want to go to. It’s a great way for print nerds to see that all of our strange quirks are shared. Where else do you see people sporting magnifying glasses, squatting down, looking at prints from the side about two inches away, and describing the art using nothing but sound effects and hand motions, all the while wafting the air toward their noses to smell the ink?

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