In-Print Exhibit at the David Filderman Gallery
The In-Print exhibit at the David Filderman Gallery in the Axinn Library at Hofstra University is as educational to the mind as it is stunning to the eye. It makes the viewer analyze the many different ways an image with a distinct message can be created. Upon entering the exhibit, the In Print introduction stands directly in front of the viewer and states, “A print, in its broadest definition, is a work of art composed of ink on paper created through an indirect transfer process that exists in multiples.” This particular exhibit focuses on four major printmaking methods, which are intaglio, relief, and the planographic techniques of lithography and screenprinting. The thirty works on display, which range from the 16th century to the 21st century, prove that taking a closer look at the transferring process really allows the viewer to observe and understand the unique soul of the artwork.
The intaglio printing process “from the Italian intagliare, meaning ‘to incise,’ refers to a number of print processes in which the printed image is created when the inked surface is below the plane of the printing plane.” One might think that this type of printing no longer occurs; however, many of the prints in this section were created in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the intaglio print Sound Lightning by Mary Prince that was created in 2001. For this particular print, an etching plate made the landscape image, and then extra ink was added to the plate’s surface to create the watercolor effect. This style creates the image of an incoming storm when the viewer looks at the three separate scenes from top to bottom. In contrast to this modern intaglio print, this section also has Henry VIII, King of England, which was created in 1750. This is an interesting print to peruse because it is an early version of what we now know as photographic reproduction. This particular print was engraved as a reverse of the painting to adapt it to the publisher’s format of placing the image in a circular stone statue frame. Although these two prints were created centuries apart, after being exhibited amongst multiple other intaglio prints, it is obvious that this method transcends the test of time.
Similarly, the relief prints displayed in the In Print exhibit cover a large period of time, spanning from 1510 to 1955. Leonard Baskin’s The Poet Laureate, which is a sizeable 23 1/8 x 48 inch woodcut that is displayed directly above its same size woodblock in the middle of the glassed-in wall on the right side of the exhibit, demands immediate attention from the viewer’s eye upon entering the exhibit. This large-scale woodcut was created through inking the raised areas of the woodblock that is the reverse design of the printed image. The intricate carvings and raised areas of the woodblock can be directly compared to the printed image, proving that what an artist carves away is just as important as what he carves into. Placed in a smaller glass enclosed table in front of Baskin’s woodcut, one can find the renowned Albrecht Dürer’s Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus, which is much smaller than The Poet Laureate at 5 1/8 x 4 inches, but is just as intricate. These two works were placed in proximity to each other because they feature the quality of revealing the grain of wood in the final print. This was done as a “rebellion against the art establishment of the time.”
The lithograph section is one of the two categories of planographic prints displayed in the exhibit. The displayed works are mostly modern from the end of the 18th century to 1975 since this process was invented by Aloys Sensefelder in 1798. To create a lithograph, the printing surface is at the same level as the non-printing surface where an artist draws with a greasy crayon or paints directly on a stone or plate. When the stone or plate is inked, the ink only sticks to the greasy area, which is what is then transferred to the paper. Ivan Le Lorraine Albright’s Self Portrait – 55 East Division Street illustrates just how much an artist can trick the observer’s eye with this method of print. The details of the figure’s face and hands, along with the expert shading of his clothes, chair, and background, make it hard to believe that this picture is actually one-dimensional and just in black and white. On the other hand, Rufino Tamayo’s The Obscure Man is closeby, playing with the use of color blending to create an image that looks as if it is moving. These lithographs prove that this printmaking method is very versatile depending on the author’s intention.
Going hand-in-hand with lithographs is the other planographic print category of screenprint, which is the most modern of the four methods displayed in the In Print exhibit. All of the works on display are from 1965 to 2006. Screenprints are a type of stencil where the artist blocks out areas with a varnish on a silkscreen that will not be printed. The artist uses a squeegee to force ink onto the paper through the open areas in the mesh. Vivid and popular examples are on display like Andy Warhol’s colorful and textured depiction of Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland (Reigning Queens Royal Edition) and Robert Indiana’s Love, which was eventually turned into an iconic statue. These prints make it obvious that this method is popular in this modern age because it allows for photographic reproduction, as well as incorporating technology and other mediums into a piece of artwork. This technique is seen in both James Rosenquist’s For Artists with his use of a screenprint of a Tide box and a belt to create an image of a clock, as well as Robert Rauschenberg’s For Artists Rights Today, which incorporates lithograph, screenprint, and collage methods. Thus, it is only appropriate that these two works of art are placed at what is both the entrance and exit of the exhibit, bringing it full circle while proving that all of the methods of printmaking intertwine with one another.