If you know me at all, you know I spent a very long time working on a project focused on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17. I always talked about him as a lightning rod around whom bazillions of artists swirled. I believe his and the atelier's story is the fastest route to inserting printmaking firmly into the now-ever-changing canon. My attempt to do that in a grand fashion was not to be through circumstances out of my control, but a few smaller projects resulted. Some of the research is published in a catalogue for an exhibition at MAC USP (University of Sao Paolo). The print run was quite small, but the catalogue PDF is available here: bit.ly/Atelier17MACUSP.
In addition, I was filmed talking about one of my favorite Hayter prints for the BMA, which is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ6Z-8Yq9cs.
I love this print. I feel like it sums up so much of Hayter's thinking and is among my top candidates for most important print of the 20th century.
Stanley William Hayter (English, 1901-1988)
Untitled (no. 6 from The Apocalypse), 1931
Engraving and drypoint; printed in black (intaglio)
Sheet: 526 x 399 mm. (20 11/16 x 15 11/16 in.)
Plate: 324 x 228 mm. (12 3/4 x 9 in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Mr. and Mrs.
Robert Paul Mann, Towson, Maryland, BMA 1979.377.6
Most of you will have heard me say that the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (BCPF) was the most fun we had on the job. (It is seriously depressing that it likely will not happen again under the new administration.) Not only was it a deeply satisfying if exhausting event, but also we were able to use about half the proceeds for purchasing prints for the collection. I was in charge of the biennial fair three times, in 2012, 2015, and 2017, and believe me, none of them would have happened without the hard work of Ben Levy and Morgan Dowty. I owe them everything.
From the 2017 fair, the museum purchased four really great prints or sets of prints by Sascha Braunig, Andrew Raftery, Ambreen Butt, and Ann Hamilton. Sometimes it takes the whole fair to decide if a print is appropriate for the collection--there's a flurry of red dotting at the last moment--and sometimes you know immediately. Such was the case with the Ann Hamilton print, RIGHTS, published by Gemini G.E.L. This is truly a print that doesn't convey in photographs, so here's a bit of description. It's a tall narrow sheet upon which is blind embossed the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which the United Nations adopted after WWII on December 10, 1948. The letters that line up down the central spine spell out the first sentence. Blue ink was delicately daubed onto the letters forming a ghost of a figure, an everyperson. Hamilton is subtle and not so subtle at the same time. While the message of the UDHR is clearly present, it is difficult to read. It's a push-pull of quiet insistence on the righteousness of the message and screaming about the injustices around us. Yesterday I told you I never shy away from a good, political work of art, and I'm rather pleased that my last acquisition was this startling, stark, delicate, beautiful, impactful, meaningful work of art by the glorious Ann Hamilton.
Ann Hamilton (American, born 1956)
Published by Gemini G.E.L.
Blind embossment with hand-applied ink
Sheet: 2019 x 546 mm. (79 1/2 x 21 ½ in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Print, Drawing & Photograph
Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2017
Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2017.66
I prefer looking at art with people. It slows me down and helps me engage more fully. I am lucky to have two partners in looking: Ben Levy and Tru Ludwig. (More on each of them in a later post.) During the 2011 NY Print Week, Tru and I headed downtown to hit the galleries. We were traipsing around Chelsea catching shows both on purpose and by chance when we tripped over this glorious print by Whitfield Lovell. There's always great stuff in 535 W 22nd St., home to DC Moore Gallery, Leslie Tonkonow, and Julie Saul. DC Moore had a show up of Lovell's fabulous drawings, one of which I would have loved to acquire--they were out of range for the museum's budget. There turned out to be some treasures not on view, too. (At print fairs, the best stuff is often under the table--always ask to see it.)
Lovell's lithograph, Deuce, was published by Smith College in an edition of 40 on Ivory Plike paper, but several experimental versions had been printed on vintage flags, which, to my mind heightens just about everything about the print. One of these special versions had the flag in a vertical position, which made the disembodied heads look like they were hanging/lynched. Now, I'm not one to shy away from a strong, political work of art, but I believe the one we acquired held more impact in its ambiguity: the red stripe across the mouth effectively silencing the man, the clarity of his eyes as he sees all of the inequities and injustices around him, the ambiguous and complicated relationship African Americans have with patriotism. There is so much to unpack here and it was frequently used in the studyroom for various classes. Someday I would love to mount a Lovell exhibition. He's worth checking out.
Whitfield Lovell (American, born 1959)
Published by Smith College Print Workshop
Printed by Derrière L'Étoile Studios
Sheet: 768 x 1130 mm. (30 1/4 x 44 1/2 in.);
Image: 413 x 705 mm. (16 1/4 x 27 3/4 in.)
Crayon lithograph on American flag mounted to paper
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Women's Committee
Acquisitions Endowment for Contemporary Prints and
Photographs, BMA 2012.154
The first time I went to the IFPDA Print Fair at the Park Avenue Armory, I didn't know anyone, wasn't traveling with anyone, and felt overwhelmed. (Art fairs can do that to a person.) At the end of a very long day, I paused in the Graphicstudio booth where soon-to-be-friend Kristin Soderqvist invited me to sit down. We were chatting about nothing in particular when I glanced over her shoulder and saw these prints by choreographer Trisha Brown. These are softground etchings with a relief roll of yellow on the surface of the plate. To create the image, Brown pirouetted on the plates that were coated with a soft, sticky ground, allowing the impression of her foot to be recorded. These are the first works that helped me understand the concept of being indexical. Simply put, instead of drawing what a foot in action looks like, the image is the product of the thing itself in action. I also love the idea of a dancer's work transferring to the wall, especially since one of Brown's famous pieces featured a person walking down the side of a building (https://trishabrowncompany.org/…/man-walking-down-the-side-…). These were the first works I acquired from a fair for the BMA's collection.
Trisha Brown (American, 1936-2017)
Published by Graphicstudio; printed by Tom Pruitt (American, born 1956)
Untitled Set One, No. 1–3, 2006
Sheet (each): 657 x 578 mm. (25 7/8 x 22 3/4 in.) Plate (each): 429 x 352 mm. (16 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.)
Set of three softground etchings printed in black (intaglio) and yellow (relief)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Women's Committee Acquisitions Endowment for Contemporary Prints and Photographs, BMA 2007.336–338
You may not know that I have a secret passion for British watercolors of the 18th and early 19th centuries. The BMA has a glorious Turner presentation watercolor of Grenoble Bridge, but few companions. In 2008 I put together a small show featuring the Turner and was able to acquire this watercolor to augment the show and the collection. It's by Robert Hills, an artist best known as an animalier--one who specialized in painting animals. In this watercolor he captured the curve in the country road with the broken-down fence at left and singular tree at right. It's a crisp, lovely sheet--the whites are white and the colors strong--and it has all the features one wants in such a composition: a path leading the eye back in space, a framing tree and shadow, that broken down fence as a bit of nostalgia in industrializing Britain, the sense that it was painted on the spot (it likely was), and its uncontrolled picturesqueness. I think this was my first purchase for the collection. I love it still.
Robert Hills (English, 1769–1844)
Nook End, Ambleside, c. 1807
Watercolor over graphite
Sheet: 357 x 270 mm. (14 1/16 x 10 5/8 in.)
The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of
Saidie A. May, BMA 2006.93
One of my first acquisitions for the BMA was this Jim Dine print. I was working on a small show of his works from the collection and was able to purchase two of Jim's more recent prints to round out the show. The inimitable Tru Ludwig and I set off to NYC to shop at Pace Prints. I knew for sure I wanted to acquire A Side View in Florida, a massive skull derived from Grey's Anatomy, but was open about a second print. Then Raven on Lebanese Border was unveiled, and we knew instantly this was the obvious choice. It has been on view in multiple exhibitions and was my go-to in the classroom because of its Baltimore-related subject matter, experimental printing methods, and multiple techniques. It is probably the work that I got the most use out of.
Jim Dine (American, born 1935)
Published by Pace Editions, Inc., New York; printed by Julia D'Amario
Raven on Lebanese Border, 2000
Sheet: 781 × 864 mm. (30 3/4 × 34 in.)
Plate: 676 × 768 mm. (26 5/8 × 30 1/4 in.)
Soft ground etching and woodcut with white paint (hand coloring)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of the Print,
Drawing & Photograph Society, BMA 2007.224
Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.