Three decades of American printmaking:the Brandywine Workshop collection
Introduction by Halima Taha, Ph.D.
ROMANCE AND RITUAL: AN INTRODUCTION
For more than 30 years, such an opportunity has enabled artists to embrace printmaking at the Brandywine Workshop as a means of investigating serial themes in contemporary contexts. The result has led the way to witnessing how the idea of the series has evolved from the classic, formal logic of the 1960s and 1970s into a range of purposes and meanings today.
The splendor of printmaking cannot be fully appreciated without reflecting upon the relationship between paper and our daily lives. As a child beginning to glimpse the infinite possibilities of paper, I discovered that I could write, paint, cut, fold, and draw on it; decorate it in a variety of ways, and cover things with it. And, with inspiration, I could even make objects that were flat or three-dimensional. By the time I reached college, I discovered that paper could also be used in building homes, furniture, fixtures, and clothing. Paper is wonderfully versatile, so much so that most of us tend to take it for granted.
Therefore, it is safe to say that our everyday lives would be inconceivable without interaction with paper. As paper continues to hold its place of crucial importance within an increasingly computerized society, its purpose, as a medium for storing and conveying information in the fields of education, publishing, business, and historic preservation, extends to the shores of Asia, Africa, North, South, and Central Americas. And then, there is the artistic and textual aspect of paper as a means of self-expression, from notebooks and diaries to drawings, watercolors, and the fine art of printmaking. Herein lies the thrill and excitement that artists and collectors experience.
The idea of romance and ritual in paper prints parallels the symbiotic relationship between passion and process for the artist, printmaker, and collector. Together they share a collaborative and creative journey that reveals as much about our individual and collective civilization and culture as it does about the intrinsic beauty of paper.
The use of paper as a support for visual ideas among Western artists is as venerable as the use of canvas. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the tradition of "painterengravers" is evidenced by the established careers of German artist Albrecht Dorer and Dutch painter Rembrandt.
After the mid-seventeenth century, prints were regarded only in their secondary role as reproductions of larger works in oil; printmakers were perceived as minor craftsmen. Hogarth, in the eighteenth century, is an outstanding exception to this fact. The nineteenth century saw a resurgence of the original print as exemplified in the etchings of Whistler and others and in the lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec. The experience of discovering and collecting paper prints has been an important activity since that time.
Tree barks and other plant materials were also collected, once it was discovered that, after maceration, they could be made into thin, flexible, strong sheets, capable of providing a smooth, fine surface. Gradually, it was discovered that images could be transferred to such papers by means of incised wood, ceramic, or metal surfaces fashioned to receive and hold ink.
The finest early papers were treated with immense respect and used to record ancient sacred texts. The more inferior grades were made into paper money, wrapping materials, and clothing. Eventually, the Chinese method of paper making spread from China outward along the trade routes to Korea, Japan, Nepal, and to India in the ninth century. A century earlier, paper spread to the Arab world, and it was through Moorish influences that it reached Europe. It was not until the twelfth century that paper was produced in Spain and from there it penetrated France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, and Holland. Paper making was first recorded in the late fifteenth century in England, shortly after invention of the Gutenberg Bible in Germany. The proliferation of line engravings followed in the late fifteenth century, in which the impetus for distribution was seemingly initiated by the publisher rather than the artist.
Past and Present Printmaking
There are essentially three basic types of prints that are of interest to collectors, museums, art dealers, and art historians: relief, intaglio, and surface. For the purpose of this essay, printing is defined as the transferring of ink from a prepared printing surface (the block, plate, screen, or stone carrying the image) to a piece of paper or other material. The ink can be carried on raised parts of the printing surface (relief), in lowered grooves (intaglio), or on the surface itself (planographic or surface).
Traditionally, the formal definition of a print has been that of an image formed in ink, which has been transferred (by pressure, the "impression") from a printing surface (the block, plate, or stone). The fact of the separate printing surface means that the image exists independently of each impression and can, therefore, be exactly repeated, while transferring ink from one surface to another. This requires two factors-repeatability and reversal-which are essential characteristics of all traditional printmaking methods. And yet the common use of the word "print" extends beyond the more limited category thought of as "printing." For example, a photograph is often referred to as a print, even though we do not describe the resulting image as "printed."
The relief is by far the oldest of the three printmaking methods. Essentially, the image is raised from the printing surface, which is a block of wood or a piece of soft linoleum glued to a block of wood. With a sharp tool, the artist cuts away the areas that are not to be printed, leaving the image raised above the cut-away areas. The raised or relief areas are then inked and printed. Familiar versions of relief printing include tire tracks, finger prints, and the rubber stamp, which on its raised surface picks up ink from the pad and transfers it under the pressure of our hand onto the paper.
Relief prints include woodcuts, wood engravings, and linoleum cuts, which are also referred to as block prints. Woodcuts often show the grain of the wood and some texture. Wood engravings customarily have finer lines and more detail. Linoleum block prints customarily have flat areas of color and line with no texture unless the artist creates the texture with his or her tool.
The intaglio print process is the opposite of the relief print. Unlike a relief print, the image is recessed into a copper or zinc plate, not raised as in relief prints. The artist cuts into a metal plate leaving a recessed area to receive the ink, and the surface of the plate is wiped clean. The lines are made with sharp tools or are "bitten" into the plate with an acid.
Intaglio prints include etchings, engravings, drypoint etchings, mezzotints, and aquatints. The grooves can be of different depths and will hold varying amounts of ink, meaning that a line can be darker or lighter as well as thicker or thinner. A similar effect can be achieved in relief printing.
An example of these basic printmaking characteristics is the U.S. banknote. It contains intaglio and relief work. For instance, the $5 bill is entirely intaglio on the reverse side, printed in green, and gives a clear example of the two intaglio characteristics-the ink in the dark lines rising up visibly from the paper, and some lines printing much more faintly than others, which can be seen clearly in and around the detail of the Lincoln Memorial. On the front side of the note the black ink is intaglio, but the bright green of the number and of the official seal is printed relief, showing unmistakably the characteristics of ink wash.
The most recent, prevalent method of printing is known as planographic or surface printing. In more popular terms this method is called lithography. A lithograph does not have a raised or recessed surface, but a flat "planographic" surface. Drawing is done on a lithographic stone (limestone) or metal plates (zinc or aluminum). It is a process based on the chemical principle that oil and water do not mix resulting in certain parts of the semiabsorbent surface being receptive to the printer's ink, while other parts-those which will remain blank in the printed image-reject it. Images are made with grease pencils (litho crayons) or a greasy liquid called tusche. The procedure requires several steps from drawing on the stone, wetting the stone, and treating the stone with chemicals to affix the image to it. Lithographs usually have two distinct "looks." One is like a crayon drawing; the other looks more painterly. The surface of a lithograph is very durable because the ink bonds with the paper.
Other images known as prints include the screenprint, which has become in recent decades an important technique for both artist printmakers and commercial printers. A screenprint is also called silkscreen and serigraph, and is a form of stencil print where ink is passed through a pattern or image created on a piece of fabric stretched over an open wooden frame. Formerly, silk was employed, but currently many printmakers use synthetics. The ink is pushed through the fabric with a tool called a "squeegee." Each color is printed separately.
The printer needs to possess substantial skill in ensuring that all of the colors meet at the right points, overlap where they should, and that no white spaces are left between the colors unless they are planned that way. This is called "registration." Screenprints have the most delicate surface because the image is built up by the application of different color inks. This technique is more closely related to coloring by stencil.
Additional prints like the monotype and the clich6-verre are also used by artist printmakers. Some monotypes are more closely akin to painting and are one-of-a-kind works on paper, in that the picture is painted in oil on a metal or glass plate from which one print is made. Other types of monotypes are print variations created by color differences, handcoloring, collage, and similar alterations that produce unique qualities in each print. A clich6-verre, invented by Corot, combines graphic and photographic techniques.
Recent methods of printing that fall outside of the traditional categories that artists use include electrostatic printing or xerography, commonly referred to by its "trade" nameXerox. Recently two new forms of printing, connected with computers, have also earned a secure place in the contemporary/commercial art market-the dot matrix and inkjet printing, also called gicleb or Iris prints. Each turns electronic impulses from a computer into dots on paper, the former by striking the paper through a ribbon and the latter by directing tiny jets of ink from a nozzle in the manner of an airbrush. Both can print in spot colors and three or four-color halftones. High-resolution laser printing and digital technology continue to expand lithography's capabilities but unlike the traditional printmaking methods, these are not hand-pulled.
It is important to acknowledge that printmaking has historically played a crucial role in the development of serial imagery because it intrinsically employs mechanization, standardization, and successive production. Nonetheless, the printmaker's ability to reproduce images quickly and repeatedly, as well as to create developmental imagery through the progressive printing and reworking of proofs, makes printmaking a natural medium for experimentation and innovation.
In the 1960s, artists embraced the multiple capabilities of printmaking, exemplified by Pop Art's successions of everyday imagery and Minimalism's infinitely repeatable geometric works. Since the sixties, several projects have expanded upon and departed from systems of logic and standardization by creating works that take a more experimental, pseudo-logical, or subversive approach. In recent years increased emphasis on content over formal expression and a deeper engagement with non-traditional media has led artists to broaden the scope of serial printmaking. This direction has also promoted open print editions and serial "limited" editions that are not to exceed 250 prints. This has caused tremendous controversy and discourse between the fine art and commercial art communities regarding the integrity of the hand-pulled prints and the infiltration of technological advances that do not require the fine artist to directly touch the print.One of the reasons fine artists make fine art prints is because the medium allows for a different kind of creative playfulness as well as an opportunity to make their work more accessible and affordable. Multiple original lithographs, screenprints, and etchings can be far more affordable without sacrificing quality.
Perhaps the most important component of printmaking and collecting is accessibility and the opportunity to discover varying dimensions of an artist's ability to work from one medium to another creatively. It is equally important to recognize the distinct market values for prints that directly involve the hand of the artist versus the more high-tech commercial forms of work on paper, loosely referred to as "prints."
Truthfully, there is not a right or wrong way to approach a lifelong adventure of identifying and collecting fine prints. The most important guide is to know exactly what you have and follow your instincts. Be prepared to find what excites you, and enjoy what delights your eye and mind. The result will be aesthetic and meaningful experiences that encourage or challenge you to consider new ideas or simply evoke self-reflective thought about the society in which you live.
Within the canon of American art history, there are few recorded antecedents of African American printmakers in the United States, due, in part, to the anonymity of slave artisans. Yet African American printmakers are known to have existed as early as 1724. Among the earliest was a Boston slave named Scipio Moorehead who, in 1773, engraved the portrait of America's first published poet, Phillis Wheatley, a Senegalese slave.
Patrick Reason (c. 1817-1850) and Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) were appreciated in the nineteenth century as painters, engravers, draftsmen, and lithographers. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, African Americans who followed this profession found outlets for their works in magazines, newspapers, journals, and other popular publications. The majority of the work by African American printmakers was confined to articles that focused on race relations in publications such as Crisis, Survey Graphic, and Opportunity.
Through the early twentieth century, lithography largely remained out of favor among American artists as a medium for fine art printmaking, not because of its commercial associations, but because few professional printers had the ability or patience to work with the artists; however, in 1959, noted lithographer and pioneer June Wayne wrote the following in a proposal to the Ford Foundation that resulted in the founding of the Tamarind Workshop, Inc.:
Wayne also believed that lithography was of high importance and insisted that,
This fundamental belief became a standard that characterized the collective and overlapping careers of Robert H. Blackburn (1919-2003), Ron Adams (b. 1934), Lou Stovall (b. 1937), and Allan L. Edmunds (b. 1949). These men significantly and individually made an impact on the art world as founders and master printmakers of the Printmaking Workshop, HandGraphics, Workshop Inc., and Brandywine Workshop. Collectively, four men, four generations, and four philosophies about printmaking provided a springboard for self-discovery and commerce within the art world in general and the African American art world in particular.
With the intention of paying homage to those who preceded Allan Edmunds and his commitment to the development of creative ideas, the significant contributions of his predecessors have been a source for inspiration and admiration. Among these leaders and colleagues there is Robert H. Blackburn, founder and director of the world-renowned Printmaking Workshop in New York City.
This workshop is credited with being the oldest artist-operated and directed workshop in the country and the prototype for many East Coast print shops. Blackburn's efforts in New York, combined with June Wayne and those at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop (Los Angeles, California), and his personal participation as master printer with Tatanya Grossman's Universal Limited Art Editions (West Islip, Long Island, New York), formed the basic foundation for printmaking in America. The printmaking boom of the 1960s owes a great deal to these seminal sources.
On collaboration, master printmaker Bob Blackburn asserts:
Such insight is gleaned from the experiences that date to the 1930s and 1940s when Blackburn participated in WPA art programs as an adolescent artist. He studied at the Harlem Community Center under the tutelage of Rex Goreleigh and Reva Helfond, and alongside of Charles Alston, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and Augusta Savage. As the only high school student during the WPA with the historic pedigree of inclusion in every publication documenting African American printmakers, he produced only eight known lithographs during this period.
His talent earned him a scholarship to the Arts Students League where he built a lasting friendship with one of his instructors, Will Barnett. In the 1940s, Blackburn worked for the Harmon Foundation, and in 1948 he opened the Printmaking Workshop in the Chelsea section of New York City, where he organized a cooperative which enabled him and his friends to pursue experimental fine art lithography and later, intaglio, relief, and photo processes.
Blackburn made his living teaching lithography and printing editions for artists. He became one of the first black technicians at Cooper Union College. From 1952 to 1953, Blackburn secured a John Hay Whitney traveling fellowship and worked at the Jacques Workshop in Paris, France. When Blackburn returned to New York, he was hired by Tatanya Grossman as the first master printer at a newly founded Universal Limited Art Editions in West Islip, Long Island, New York, where he worked until 1962 when he returned full-time to his Printmaking Workshop (incorporated in 1975).
Under the direction of Tatanya Grossman at ULE, he worked with many artists who moved to define the American graphics boom in the 1960s; Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers, Robert Motherwell, Grace Hartigan, Robert Goodnell, and Jim Dine. Through the collaborative process, Blackburn's interaction with these artists, who brought many prejudices against printmaking, had a profound impact on them. Larry Rivers once said, "...printmaking is a dull occupation of pipe-smoking, corduroy jacket-wearing type artisans." Robert Motherwell exclaimed "...the second half of the 20th century was no time to start drawing on rocks." Essentially, both Rivers and Motherwell shared abstract expressionist views that printmaking was "not quite an art" and regarded it as "jumping back to the fifteenth century."4 With Blackburn's guidance, their minds expanded, as did their creative portfolios.
In the middle of the twentieth century, most of the significant modernists were not interested in printmaking because it rested securely in the hands of printmakers and crafts people whose work was of interest almost exclusively to themselves. Lithography, the most painterly of the print processes, had virtually ceased to exist as a tool for artists. In the 1950s there were very few professional printers left in the United States who were capable of pulling an image from a lithographic stone or plate. Lithography involves a complex relationship between the artist and printer. In the fifties, anyone who wanted to take full advantage of the medium had to go to France. Essentially, none of the New York school artists took an interest in lithography until the late 1950s when Barnett Newman and Robert Motherwell were invited to work at United Limited Editions. Conversely, Robert Blackburn had been, since 1938, first and foremost, a lithographer.
In many cases Blackburn taught artists how to make lithographs. A few had tried, but had not seriously explored the graphic medium with a master printmaker. As an artist, Blackburn's experimental color lithography in the late fifties preceded the lithographic explosion of the sixties. By 1960 his work had evolved into an explosion of color relationships that completely ignored recognizable subjects. His personal imagery was engaged in New York School Abstract Expressionism, which revealed his concern with the process itself. Due to his familiarity with the printmaking process, Blackburn treated the stone with tremendous fluidity in which he constantly reworked the images from all sides and constantly reoriented the image. He frequently signed his work on both top and bottom margins, allowing options for viewing. His thinking was horizontal; he worked across the surface of the stone as he moved around it and as it lay on the press bed.
Unlike the editions Blackburn works on for other artists, a consistent edition of his own work is rare. His prints primarily exist in multicolor state proofs and various themes. Frequent color changes are accompanied by variation on the printing order, resulting in "unique" color and state proofs. As a printmaker, Blackburn's interest in mark making and the play between the hand-made mark and those inherent to the process, such as the effects of ink and inking, show his interest in the implication of mechanized process. All of Blackburn's artistic thought processes were based on his direct experiences work ing with lithography. Additionally, he has taught at the College of the City of New York, the New School for Social Research, New York University, Pratt Institute, and Columbia University.
As was the case of many printmakers, Bob Blackburn has served as a teacher and creative catalyst for many artists within his characteristically multicultural workshop. Blackburn's contributions to the art world earned him many honors and prestigious awards, including the New York State Governor's Art Award and the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation Award.
Dubbed the "Prince of Prints" by writer Mark St. John Erickson, Ron Adams was born in 1934 when Bob Blackburn was a teenager honing his skills in the WPA. His odyssey as an artist/master printmaker began in post-Depression Detroit and, as he likes to say, "I was doing art long before it was an 'in' or popular thing." Ron's fondness for drawing was encouraged by his father but was met with mythic resistance after his parents divorced, leaving him with an uncle who refused to allow him to enroll in a Detroit Art Institute program for gifted kids. His uncle's rationale was, "Boy, I worked thirty-five years and never missed a day. That's what you need to be doing," words which shaped Ron's work ethic despite their pain. "My uncle was a very religious, uneducated man who believed that the only way to make a living was through daily manual labor."6
At twenty-one, Adams headed for Los Angeles. Classes in graphic art and drafting landed him a job as a technical illustrator with Hughes Aircraft. He later attended Otis Art Institute where he reveled in drawing and anatomy classes with Joseph Mugnaini and Arnold Meshes. His art began to appear in various group exhibitions at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Brockman Gallery, and the Downey Museum. These opportunities served as a springboard for a flourishing career, which Adams altered irrevocably with a decision to go to Mexico where his affinity with the Mexican muralists led Adams to his discovery of lithography and metal engraving.
After one year at the University of Mexico, he designed motifs, posters, and murals for the 1968 Olympics. Adams then returned to Los Angeles where he imported lithographic stones from Mexico to offer to college print studios as his means of making a living. Adams was invited to work as a printmaker at Gemini GEL, a studio widely regarded for innovative and high-quality graphics, under the guidance of Ken Tyler. It was at Gemini that Adams developed the philosophy that he was a printer first and an artist second.
Within this context Adams worked with Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis, Josef Albers, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Stella between 1969 and 1973. Adams' observation is that most artists who are printmakers can only print their own work, whereas a professional printmaker has the ability to put him or herself into the head of the artist.
In 1974 Adams opened his own shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although Santa Fe welcomed Adams, the studio idea was ridiculed by a segment of the arts community who believed he would not succeed in Santa Fe as a black printmaker; however, with the moral support and public endorsement of Bob Blackburn, Adams went ahead setting up his studio. Adams launched HanclGraphics with artists Charles W. White, Luis Jimenez, John T. Biggers, R.C. Gorman, and the many other artists who effectively muted the naysayers while making a significant contribution to the Santa Fe art scene. In 1987, Adams sold his workshop to pursue his own artistic career on a full-time basis. He continues to mentor and encourage fellow artists to explore the accessibility of printmaking, which inherently aspires to expand the possibilities of making fine art. Perhaps the most eloquent affirmation of this fact is expressed by master screen printmaker Lou Stovall: Fascination with the sheer beauty of silkscreened ink on paper will probably last forever. It begins with color, the single most compelling element in silkscreen printmaking. Beyond the expectations of line, texture and composition, color attracts, initiates, confirms, informs, soothes, and excites. Color fills the senses and opens windows of intrinsic understanding. A single layer of color silkscreened on any surface is in itself the explanation of beauty-integrity, clarity, and consonance.7
Unlike lithographers Bob Blackburn and Ron Adams, Lou Stovall's prints are direct impressions through silk, which enables multiple colors to be built up in a similar manner as paintings. In comparison, lithography, linocut, wood blocks, and intaglio methods of printmaking are characterized by a few colors. Consequently, great care must be exercised in order to preserve the graphic nature inherent in these processes because the printed image is transferred from a metal or linoleum plate, or from a stone or wood block. Texture and surface are created by a range of fine subtle shadings to deep black opaque that establish the basis for the appreciation of these types of prints. The dominant feature of screenprints or serigraphs is rich color and, like paintings, appreciation for screenprinted color is the first attraction to the viewer.
Stovall's contributions to the printmaking canon emerged from a small, but active studio, primarily concerned with community posters that eventually developed into a professional printmaking facility. The fertile ground from which this foundation emerged comes from his background as a noted artist, craftsman, poet, philosopher, and curator specializing in Washington, D.C., artists. Stovall's craft is that of a master printmaker but his passion is drawing. His own prints and drawings are part of numerous public and private collections throughout the world.
Born in Athens, Georgia, and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Stovall attended the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated from Howard University. His study of art history, painting, and philosophy combined with the unconditional support afforded by his parents "to be the best he could at whatever he did," shaped the foundation for Workshop Inc.
Stovall's commitment to the printmaking process is reflected in his philosophy that in order to be a printmaker you need a sense of selflessness that allows you to share ideas and be open to the natural transformation of process, simultaneous to functioning as the artist's technical hands. Stovall explains his work style by saying,
Recognition of Stovall's craftsmanship has gained him commissions to print the works of such noted artists as Josef Albers, Peter Blume, Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Catlett, William Buck Clark, Gene Davis, Jeff Donaldson, David C. Driskell, Sam Gilliam, LoYs Mailou Jones, Gwen Knight, Walter Lattimore, Jacob A. Lawrence, Ed Love, Robert Mangold, Mathieu Mategot, Lloyd McNeil, Pat Buckley Moss, Anita Philyaw, Raul Reed, Joe Ross, Reuben Rubin, Sylvia Snowden, A. Brockie Stevenson, James Lesesne Wells, and Franklin White.
Among his special commissions, he designed the Independence Day invitation for the White House in 1982 at the request of Mrs. Ronald Reagan. In 1986, at the request of Mayor Marion Barry, he made the print American Beauty Rose for the Washington, D.C., Area Host Committee 1988 Democratic National Convention. In 1996 he designed and made the print Breathing Hope to honor Howard University's incoming president, H. Patrick Swygert. Stovall's commitment to quality, education, and craftsmanship has earned him an honorary doctorate from the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the distinguished title of Alumni of the Year from Howard University.
Continuing in a tradition of leadership and creativity, Allan L. Edmunds and Brandywine Workshop are committed to the development of creative ideas and providing guidance to the artists with whom they work. On professional development and the role of collaboration and education in printmaking, Allan Edmunds asserts:
As an arts administrator who is also an acclaimed printmaker, Allan L. Edmunds' professional life is always two-sided. On the one side, there is a pragmatist who views the art of printmaking through its appropriateness in furthering institutional goals. Conversely, there is the social-conscious artist whose narrative style is well supported by the intrinsic attributes of prints and works on paper.
Philadelphian Allan L. Edmunds founded Brandywine Workshop in 1972 as a nonprofit institution dedicated to printmaking and bringing culturally diverse artists and students together to pursue innovative, quality fine art. Edmunds' mission of almost thirty years has been to enhance the role of people of color as both visual artists and audiences in contemporary society through the medium of printmaking.
Edmunds' experience in the fine and graphic arts and in institutional development has earned him international stature. He received a BFA and MFA from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, where he majored in printmaking and minored in education. Brandywine has changed the face of the Philadelphia art community by serving as a point at which cultural currents converge and diverse collaboration is realized.
Edmunds' commitment to the conceptual framework by which the print should evolve, while repeated aesthetic decisions and collaborations are made during the printing process, provides the basis for his ability to nurture multicultural exchanges within international artistic and student communities. Like Robert Blackburn's printmaking workshop, diversity in cultural, socio-political, and aesthetic styles are the more common practice than the exception.
Indirectly influenced by Robert Blackburn's commitment to experimental lithography, Edmunds dedicated the first ten years of Brandywine's direction to the artistic development of experimental screenprinting and light-sensitive processes that integrate the photographic principle of the articulation of light on a surface.
Encouraged by master printmaker John E. Dowell, Jr., Edmunds began making offset prints in 1981. Together, Dowell and Edmunds investigated drawing on translucent sheets of mylar or lightly frosted plastic, fine-grain positive litho-plates, and inks printed from large-format one- and two-color cylinder presses. They discovered that "...Offset lithography's potential for precise registration and its greater retention of fine line and delicate tonal variation had shown that it offered artists a greater range of aesthetic options and provided a more predictable cost basis than did screenprinting." During the 1980s and 1990s, investigations with different mylars, intermediate films, various drawing materials, image-making /marking tools such as computer drawing software have made it possible to broaden the limits of printmaking. The use of photography, digital imaging, and offset lithography in modern printmaking requires mechanical systems and skilled operators. This has increased the emphasis on collaboration. Edmunds states:
Within the world of fine art prints, an original print is defined as a work of art in multiples. The factor that determines the print to be an original print is based on how the print is made. This includes a unique image made directly in a printmaking medium. A photomechanically reproduced print of an already existing painting or drawing is not considered to be an original print, even if it is printed in a limited edition and signed by the artist. Such works are reproductions.
The Print Council of America defines an original print as follows:
As a result of Edmunds and Dowell's explorations into the offset medium, the Offset Institute at Brandywine was established in 1982. In offset, artists impose their images directly on several sheets of mylar or frosted transparent film, with pens, brushes of ink, pencils, spray paint or ink, waxed pencils, or razors. Each sheet serves as a color separation. This process creates the image that is easily transferred through a light-sensitive process to an aluminum offset plate. The process of printmaking demands collaboration.
The Brandywine technique is frequently controversial among printmaking purists. Edmunds counters criticism by protecting the integrity of the artist's work through the standard practicum, in which the artist selects colors, supervises proofing, and signs authenticity forms and publication/pricing agreements immediately after completing an edition and ending his or her on-site collaboration or residency. The standard numbered edition produced at Brandywine is limited to 100 prints and 20 artist proofs, which are split equally between the artist and Brandywine Workshop. The artist keeps all odd numbered prints and Brandywine retains all even numbered prints. It is important to note that Brandywine Workshop's standard for an edition of prints is no more than 100. Many in the field consider any edition size over 300 not to be a limited edition.
Edmunds' passion for printmaking has extended to his establishment of Brandywine as a nonprofit educational institution that nurtures the development of informed and welltrained individuals through a tradition of student apprenticeships. Printmaking and other art forms have been taught and passed on from one generation of artists to another for hundreds of years. Traditionally, a person works under a skilled master for a period of time. Edmunds has reintroduced this system into the community in which he lives, thereby distinguishing Brandywine as one of the nation's oldest and most prominent organizations offering visual artists the opportunity to explore printmaking and related technology in the production of original limited fine art prints.
Edmunds has pioneered several programs that provide advanced study opportunities in print media. Both offset and screenprinting studios are available to artists with a print archive and computer lab. Traditional relief printing and etching processes are also implemented at Brandywine.
More than 250 artists have created prints at Brandywine including: Benny Andrews, John T. Biggers, Camille J. Billops, Selma Burke, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Moe Brooker, Nanette Clark, David C. Driskell, Sam Gilliam, Richard H. Hunt, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Jacob Lawrence, Gwen Knight, Hughie Lee-Smith, Samella S. Lewis, Jules Olitski, Tomie Arai, Nene Humphrey, Yung Soon Min, Mitchi Itami, Norie Sato, Keith A. Morrison, Alvin Loving, Elizabeth Catlett, Howardena C. Pindell, Evangeline Montgomery (EJ), Kenneth Noland, Hitoshi Nagazato, Juan Sanchez, John T. Scott, Betye Saar, Alison Saar, James Lesesne Wells, Wucius Wong, and Jacob Landau.
Based on his pioneering contributions as an arts educator and printmaker, Edmunds has been affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the former Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (NY), the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, the National
Collectively, these four men have played significant roles in the history of collaborative printmaking in the United States as American master printmakers of African descent.
The most important thing to remember is that there are no rules governing the length of time it takes to appreciate a print. As you look at prints you may ponder how much time it takes to absorb the qualities of a specific work of art. The answer has to be that the depth of appreciation is not a function of time. It is possible to look at an object for five seconds and be overcome by its beauty. Or one may spend many hours discovering details in a print that are not apparent at first sight. Finally, as a new or experienced print collector, allow yourself to develop at your own pace and remember that your journey in collecting prints will be as unique and personal as your individual fingerprints.
Throughout these pages, you will experience affirmations of the unending human quest for meaning, enlightenment, fulfillment, and joy. Through the simple ritual of exploration, you will begin to kindle or re-affirm a romance with paper prints, while re-examining the visual conscience of the society in which you live.
Copyright ©2011 HALIMA TAHA, All Rights Reserved.
HALIMA TAHA PROARTS