Symbol & Syntax: the art of the print Panel Discussion on Printmaking December 15 with Panelists, Norman Clayton, Anca Colbert & Dug Uyesaka and Moderator, Jane Handel
Gallery 525 celebrates the holiday season and rings in the New Year with a stellar exhibit of fine prints. An opening reception on December 3rd launches the season with good cheer, libations and an array of beautiful, thought-provoking, museum-quality art.
In the simplest of terms, printmaking is a process of transferring an image from one type of surface (stone, metal, wood) to another, most often, paper. The important thing to remember is that a fine print is not a copy or reproduction. It begins with an original image that is specifically created by an artist for the purpose of a limited edition. And, since most artists do not have their own printing equipment, the prints are often collaborations between the artist and a master printer.
For hundreds of years, the fine print medium has had many passionate and loyal fans. Most museums, in fact, have entire departments devoted to print collections. However, many individuals confuse fine prints with their more commercial, mass-produced, counterparts like those produced by photo-offset lithography. Or, they find the technical terms that define specific types of prints to be esoteric and mystifying. Trying to understand a broad term like intaglio, for instance, which includes engravings, dry-point and mezzotint, can make one’s head spin. But for most collectors and curators, it is the symbol (the image, the lines drawn) that is alluring, while the syntax (the technical process of surface, texture, and light) appeals to those individuals for whom complex mechanical processes are intriguing. And yet one cannot exist without the other—both symbol and syntax are necessary components of the fine print.
The exhibit, Symbol & Syntax—the art of the print at Gallery 525 is a rare opportunity to see works by an international group of artists who have made beautiful and intriguing contributions to the medium outside of an urban center. On view will be an engraving by William Blake from Illustrations of the Book of Job, a woodblock (ukiyo-e) by Toyohara Kunichika depicting actors in a Kabuki play, a lithograph portrait by the pre-Raphaelite artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a monotype with chine collé and collage by contemporary Santa Barbara artist, Dug Uyesaka, and prints and broadsides by Ojai artist and master letterpress printer, Norman Clayton.
Fine prints have a texture and quality that is not found in other mediums. And, because they are generally more affordable than paintings, prints are a great entry point for the beginning collector who can own an original work of art by an artist they admire with the understanding that its value will gradually increase in tandem with the market value of the artist’s other works. And, because prints are usually created in limited editions, the collector can also take pride in knowing that their print is in a museum collection. Some examples in this exhibit are the Blake engraving, which is in the British Museum’s collection (and many others); a color aquatint with drypoint, “Line, Essence, Color” by Enrique Chagoya, which is in the collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; etchings by Max Klinger and serigraphs (screen prints) by Sister Mary Corita Kent are in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s collection.
Symbol & Syntax: the art of the print is not an historical overview, but it certainly provides an entry point. It is also an opportunity for savvy collectors to augment existing collections with new discoveries. And, since this is the season for giving, a gift of original art enhances the recipient’s quality of life in deeply soul-satisfying ways.
Kelly Luscombe Bea