International Print Center NY: For the love of pen, paper and pulp

Enrique Chagoya - Return to Goya No 9 - is that Obama in a frock? Yes it is! 

Chagoya's cheeky seal

I recently discovered the wonderful International Print Center NY, a shrine to all things pulped, pressed and printed - in ways that a camera or traditional brush and canvas are not. The center is non-profit and relies the support of annual auctions and some very generous artist benefactors. For example, the above etching, an edition of 50, was donated by MOMA-lauded printmaking lecturer from San Francisco, Enrique Chagoya, featuring his signature wit and irreverence - in this case, Obama in a frock, and executed in the style of Goya. The Denver Post featured this story of a woman who smashed her way into Chagoya's show in Loveland, denouncing what some locals felt were blasphemous images. Well, as they say, better to be talked about than not talked about ...

My surge of interest in printmaking was inspired by a friend, Kate Holoka, a recent and promising graduate in the field, and a preparator at the University of Michigan Art Museum:

Young printmaker Kate Holoka readies an etching for a waiting customer 
So what is a print? Here, we're not really talking about a giclee - a scanned image pumped out of a computer and sold as a "fine art reproduction." You can think of a giclee as a high-class poster with prices ranging anywhere from $25 to $250 and more, and though it can be legitimately employed by artists - especially digital artists - as the medium of execution for their work, it can also be inflicted on unsuspecting buyers who think they are getting something "original".

According to the useful glossary on the IPCNY site: 

Technically, a print is any image that is transferred from a matrix. A matrix is a physical surface that can be manipulated to hold ink. Most, though not all, matrices are able to print the same image many times.

Kate's printing press - no "push button stuff" here!

It's the hands-on process we're talking here. At Kate Holoka's new studio, I saw the young artist's investment in her own press, from which she produces etchings painstakingly scratched into a metal plate. A few mouseclicks this ain't! 

Below are some examples I liked from the IPCNY's current show.

"Wintering the Snow" really resonated as I dripped NY slush from my gumboots all over IPCNY's polished concrete floor: 
Grainne Dowling - Wintering with Snow - etching
The tiny print below deserves a mention. Donated by über famous printmeister Jasper Johns, this 24/35 edition is priced at 10-20 times most of the other work in the show: $7500. Why? He's a Big Name; my
Sotheby's past auction catalog with at least two commas in the hammer price of his work says so. My closeup shot (because it isn't much bigger than this jpg) gives little clue as to what it actually is. Who cares? IT'S A JASPER JOHNS.
Jasper Johns - Untitled 2008 - what the hell is it?
War? The Afghan desert?  The Big Dipper?
Who cares -  it's a JASPER JOHNS! 

Distinctly map-like, the evocative little print below reminded me of an aerial view of say, the Gowanus Canal, famously the most polluted little confluence in all of New York. I keep staring into the murky black depths and picture submerged cars, pieces of crane, basketball shoes with laces  tied together ...

John Willis - Blackprint VI  2010 - like a map of an industrial waterway near you

Still in a New York state of mind, I thought the image below must be the Brooklyn or Manhattan or one of the many New York bridges magically lifted from the earth and jettisoned into deep space with some kind of reference to a space station. Perhaps it was all that talk of Sputnik moments in Obama's recent State of the Union address ...

Maya Malachowski Bajak - Bridge - etching. 

Finally, the darkly cheerful comment on the demise of cities below is by an artist who works at Nickelodeon, I was told. "OH",  clearly the antithesis of "HOLLYWOOD" and all its glitz, features peak hour traffic at a standstill, a shaky city skyline (shades of 911?) and most poignantly, a wolf carrying off some Chelsea Pomeranian or Chihuauadoodle or whatever is the latest mutt mutation favored by the modern Manhattan metrosexual ... 

Kit Boyce - Oh - hand tinted woodcut
Prints enable you to start collecting art at a more reasonable pricepoint. Most of these works start around the $300-400 mark. If you consider how many hours you work to earn that amount, and more importantly, what you achieve in that time, you might start to see what a labor of love art is. Even if a work is $5000 (a "lot" of money for most people to drop on something non-essential to staying alive), if an artist is lucky to sell one a month, giving half of that sale price to the gallery, they are still only $30,000/year before tax. Think about that next time you look at a piece of art and say, "that's too expensive!" But make sure you read that "Are You An Art Target?" article above before you spring for a 300 edition Warhol screenprint.

The IPCNY is s non-profit entity, and in many cases, ensures that the artists take all of the profit. So if you're thinking of supporting such a worthy organization, that Jasper Johns (and others) await you!

International Print Center New York
508 West 26th Street, Room 5A
New York, NY 10001
(212) 989-5090, (212) 989-6069 fax,

Popular posts from this blog

Art Basel Miami: A first-timer's guidebook

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge: It's time to collect!

Street Art in West Chelsea: alive and ungentrified