Letterio Calapai, Earthquake
Here’s a doozy for my simultaneous color printing friends. No surprise, Letterio Calapai worked with our man Hayter at Atelier 17 in New York in the 1940s. While Earthquake is from 1958, it is a glorious summation of techniques he learned among the many inventive artists frequenting Atelier 17. The print is really two prints that form a diptych. I've seen images of the two sides abutting each other, but the BMA would likely present these in a single frame, but with two windows in the mat with a center strip covering the seam.
Letterio Calapai followed the path of many other American artists who worked at Hayter’s Atelier 17. After growing up in Boston, he moved to New York in 1928 and supported himself by working in a lithographic shop. He worked for the WPA early on painting a mural in the 101st Signal Battalion at 801 Dean Street in Brooklyn among other projects (see image). By the time Hayter moved Atelier 17 to New York from Paris in 1940 (fleeing German occupation), Calapai was continuing his artistic studies. It wasn’t until 1946 that Calapai worked at Atelier 17; he continued making prints there until 1949. His shift from 1930s realism to 1940s abstraction can be specifically linked to his time there.
Like so many other artists who worked at the New York Atelier 17, Calapai went on to found a university printmaking program, in his case, the Graphic Arts Department at the Albright Art School in Buffalo (1949–55). He returned to New York to teach at the New School for Social Research from 1955–65. During his tenure at the New School, he established the Intaglio Workshop for Advanced Printmaking in 1962 (it ran until 1965). In 1965 he moved to Chicago and taught at, and retired from, the University of Illinois at Chicago.
So, to the printing. Recently we’ve been pulling apart simultaneous color prints by Hayter. You can assume if Hayter did it, others did too, including Calapai. Earthquake is printed from two plates, which together are some 32 inches wide (big!). Both plates are inked in black (intaglio), where the ink is pushed into the lines and grooves of the plate. Rolled onto the surface (relief) are several colored inks added through screens (similar to a stencil): blue-green gradient, red, and green on the left, and green and red-yellow gradient on the right. The left plate also includes a yellow wood offset rolled through a stencil (similar to Hayter’s Sun Dancer, discussed in another post). For clarity, the description is broken down into bullet points to more easily list each component. Just remember, all of these colored inks are rolled onto each of these plates and are put through the press once.
Letterio Calapai (American, 1902–1993)
Diptych of etching, softground etching, open bite etching, and engraving
Sheet (right): 562 x 458 mm. (22 1/8 x 18 1/16 in.; plate (right): 504 x 404 mm. (19 13/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: The John Dorsey and Robert W. Armacost Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2014.13a-b
Letterio Calapai (American, 1902–1993), Earthquake, 1958. Diptych of etching, softground etching, open bite etching, and engraving; left plate printed in black (intaglio), blue-green gradient (screen, relief) , red (screen, relief), green (screen, relief), yellow (wood offset, stencil, relief); right plate printed in black (intaglio), green (screen, relief), red-yellow gradient (screen, relief). Sheet (left): 562 x 432 mm. (22 1/8 x 17 in.); plate (left): 505 x 404 mm. (19 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.); sheet (right): 562 x 458 mm. (22 1/8 x 18 1/16 in.); plate (right): 504 x 404 mm. (19 13/16 x 15 7/8 in.). Baltimore Museum of Art: The John Dorsey and Robert W. Armacost Acquisitions Endowment, BMA 2014.13a-b
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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.