From Paris to New York: transformations in printmaking

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/66859-from-paris-to-new-york-transformations-in-printmaking

Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to present From Paris to New
York: Transformations in Printmaking. Chronologically, this viewing room begins with the growth
of printmaking in early 20th century Paris, covers the war and interwar years in Europe, and goes
up to and beyond the American renaissance of printmaking. As such, it highlights the moment
artists became cognizant of the possibilities of printmaking beyond reproduction and began to
rightfully see its capabilities to create innovative, autonomous works of art. In order to provide a
cohesive perspective on the possibilities afforded by printmaking as well as the changes it
underwent during this period, this viewing room includes woodcuts, lithographs, etchings, and
screenprints.

Paris saw an emergence of print workshops in the late 19th century that persisted well into the
20th. Collecting prints became an obsession at this time. More affordable than painting and
sculpture, prints were also able to cater to every class as posters and street art flourished
alongside the creation of rarer limited-edition prints. Significantly, this interest in prints directly
coincided with the time artists flocked to Paris from all over Europe. Advances in methods taught
at print workshops were a crucial aspect of the renewed interest; skilled printers collaborated
with artists and taught them new techniques. Henri Matisse, previously an intermittent
printmaker, delved into lithography as it allowed him to explore his interest in line. He ultimately
created over 500 prints consisting primarily of lithographs in addition to line etchings and cutout
prints.

Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 typifies the creative and collaborative nature of printmaking
both in Paris and the United States during this time by eliminating traditional teacher-student
roles, instead emphasizing collective effort. Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, both included in this
viewing room, benefited greatly from Hayter’s expertise along with other members of the avantgarde. The excitement regarding printmaking as a medium full of potential apart from
reproductive capabilities can be seen in that Miró stated that in it he saw “an infinity of
possibilities.” Upon relocating to New York as a result of the outbreak of World War II, Hayter
opened a second Atelier 17 there. As it brought European surrealists in contact with emerging
American artists, it became a key site for changes in the landscape of American printing as well
as art in general.

As a result of all of these developments, the American renaissance of printmaking came to
fruition in the 1960s and 70s. A crucial aspect of this period was the emergence of an
empowered middle class in the United States, which formed partly as a result of the postwar
economic boom. Prints were more democratic and, as the middle class now had an urge to
collect, there was a large demand. These cultural changes also resulted in new directions in art.

In reaction to the psychological, grandiose gesture of abstract expressionism, seminal Pop
figures Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, both trained in the commercial arts, turned to the
language of advertising in order to straddle the line between art and commerce in both prints and paintings. Their interest in commerce was a direct reflection of the marketing associated
with the surge of available products. Artists involved in subsequent movements such as
minimalism, conceptual art, and photorealism likewise emphasized aspects of the medium which
best suited the aims. As in Paris, workshops in the United States were key to the artistic dialogue
and spread of ideas. Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in New York and Gemini G.E.L. in Los
Angeles were crucial print workshops, both of which spread printmaking through a variety of
means. Ellsworth Kelly, a precursor of the geometric reductionism of the 1960s, collaborated
with Gemini G.E.L. throughout his career; his serious ambitions specifically in print led to the
saying: “If you can print a Kelly, you can print anything.”

Several prints included in this viewing room sharing mediums or similar subjects in different
contexts illustrate the evolutions and transformations of techniques that are likewise revelatory
of cultural transformations in the 20th and 21st centuries thus far. Joaquín Torres-García’s
woodcut Untitled from 1934 exhibits his interest in universal symbols in a traditional format.
Helen Frankenthaler’s woodcut Geisha from 2003 is revelatory of abstract expressionism’s
similar interest in universal subjective expression; however, Frankenthaler transposed her
trademark soak-stain method from canvas to woodcuts, thus bringing the medium into the 20th
century. In a different vein, the nude in Matisse’s 1931 Nu assis sur la jambe droite bras levés
features an almost identical pose to that of the subject of Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen
(II.135) from 1975. While Matisse was interested in exploring a more traditional iteration of the
female nude from a heteronormative gaze, Warhol was concerned with highlighting changes in
identity, sexuality, and gender in the late 20th century by putting drag queens front and center.
In contrast to Matisse’s classic lines, Warhol eradicated the trace of the artist’s hand, used
nontraditional bright color, and featured monochrome patches; all of these aspects were
intrinsic to the commercial aims of the screenprinting method and suited Warhol’s conceptual
goals.

This viewing room sheds important light on an oft-overlooked period of great import to
printmaking through the forefront of works from the modern, post-war, and contemporary
periods. Whether pushing the boundaries of what prints could be, creating a new technique, or
engaging in political or cultural commentary, all of the artists included in this viewing room are
revelatory of the artistic possibilities inherent only in printmaking, resulting in unique pieces that
are technically and visually brilliant as well as culturally significant.

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/66859-from-paris-to-new-york-transformations-in-printmaking