Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Boston Printmakers Biennial

The Boston Printmakers 2011 North American Print Biennial featuring juror Jim Dine, at Framingham State University, February 27th, running through May 1st at The Danforth Museum of Art. Framingham, Massachusetts.

The event began with an interview conducted by MFA curator Clifford Ackley. After the interview, numerous questions were raised from the audience, one being:

“Mr. Dine, Seeing as how you are very successful and have homes in all sorts of places, do you find it difficult to create in those spaces, even though they are not your typical studio environment?”

To which he replied: “Well, luckily no... There is always a Home Depot within 15 miles..”

After listening to the interview of Jim Dine in the Dwight Hall auditorium of Framingham State University, I was left with a profound sense of unity between art and man. Jim Dine, in his aged esteem, peers over his scholarly spectacles and revisits past experiences in his artistic career with humorous anecdotes about friends, lovers, and materials with the audience. His commitment to producing art is an important aspect of his personality; never alluding to how much work is involved in achieving a given effect or how long something has taken to finally be in a finished state.

Jim Dine is an ordinary man, with extraordinary ability in printmaking. He is impatient and eagerly seeks out shortcuts/reduced methods of achieving effects. He even admits to having dabbled in the digital world of printmaking. However, his impetuous nature does not thwart his creative conscience; he never trashes a printing block, and constantly is revisiting older blocks for new inspiration

Having to choose 149 prints out of 2,064 works submitted by 811 artists, with little more than a rectangular digital jpeg image to reference, was no doubt exhausting. Of the work that Jim Dine chose to be in the Biennial, he chose nothing ordinary or that followed a trend—works that were unique and something that he could picture himself doing were paramount. Although there were no presuppositions of a theme present in the show, there are certain patterns. Naturalism (the beauty of form in nature) and the beauty of architecture in man-made spaces resonate through the show of prints.

Also on view is an artist that we show here at 13Forest Gallery, Susan Jaworski-Stranc whose reduction linoleum print Harbinger, was selected by Jim Dine as winner of the Legion Paper-East Award. It is a great “patina of a by-gone era” piece fitting of the theme of naturalistic form.

Thanks to the leadership of the Boston Printmakers president, Marc Cote, who also displays work at 13Forest Gallery, the biennial was a great success and showcased many artists, both known and unknown to the general public, giving printmaking an esteemed platform to showcase.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Public Art at Porter Square Station

Twice a week, I take public transportation from Brookline to Arlington to get to work at 13Forest. With such a long commute I have to plan my time perfectly, looking up train and bus times for the most efficient travel. While most MBTA users are worried about buses and trains running late, I've learned that I should be primarily concerned with how long it takes me to get off the T at Porter and make it to street level.

The Porter Square T stop is the deepest station in the Boston area, descending 105 feet below ground. The station contains three levels, connected by escalators and stairs. Together, the escalators reach 143 feet, and the stairs next to them contain 199 steps. The first time I discovered how far below I was I stared at the escalators in disbelief and became annoyed at how tedious the ascent would be. But over the past few weeks I have noticed the public art in the station, and now the walk up the escalator isn't so bad.

The public art featured in the station is titled Glove Cycle, by Mags Harries. The piece is an installation of bronze castings of lost gloves flowing down the escalator and scattered throughout the station. The work is part of the Arts on the Line program, created by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, and was commissioned for $30,000. The gloves are placed all around the station, on the escalators, in a corner pile, and even incorporated into the platform floor. Harries' statement on the piece notes that "the subway station is a daily ritual; a controlled pathway designed to move commuters as efficiently as possible. The positioning of the cast-bronze glove pieces echo the pattern and pauses of this ritual to make a sculptural narrative. The narrative begins at the subway’s token booth and ends on the train platform, a subway life cycle. The cycle brings commuters a sense of continuity as they go underground and return to the surface." The artist has also mentioned that the piece reflects abandoned gloves that get lost under winter snow and are revealed again in the spring. I believe this comment on the arrival of spring and renewal is something everyone in New England can appreciate.

I now look forward to walking through Porter and spotting the gloves. I've noticed that each time I walk through I discover a hidden glove that I had not seen the previous time. This element of surprise is something I believe is very important in art. Just like a painting that keeps drawing you in with hidden details, this sculpture and concept created by Harries continues to amaze me every week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Print Editioning

Most art collectors have become familiar with the numbers written at the bottom of prints. These scribbles are edition numbers, referring to the amount of prints an artist chooses to make of a single image. There are two ways to approach making an edition, either with a numbered edition or a limited edition. Numbered editions do not set a predetermined number of prints; whereas a limited edition sets a finite amount of prints that will be produced. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. So how does an artist choose which approach to use in his/her art making? And if they choose a limited edition, how do they choose the number of prints to make?

In printmaking, limited editions are necessary due to the nature of production. Printmaking plates (done on surfaces such as copper, wood, and stone) must be inked and run through a press for every print and, in turn, causes a deterioration of the plate and lower quality of the image. In contrast, the purpose of limited editions in photography can cause confusion. The process of using a negative to make a photograph poses no damage to the negative. Since no degradation is caused to the negative, why does the artist only print a limited amount of images?

Usually, these limited editions have more to do with artistic choice than artistic necessity. It's simple: the higher the price of a print, the fewer buyers there will be. The number of prints in an edition greatly depends on the artists intent for the life of the image and how widespread they want their image to be. If a large amount of prints are made, the cheaper they will be and this results in more available buyers. This allows the art to be seen by a wider audience and to sell quicker. But some artists have developed a more finite approach, where they make fewer prints for more money. The artist chooses a set number of prints to make and will not go back on their choice. Some photographers even destroy their negatives after making their limited edition to ensure that no new prints can be made. Once these prints are sold if a new buyer really wants the image they must now buy from a private owner. This process drives up the price even more.

Deciding the number of the edition can be based on a variety of factors such as size, intricacy, deadlines, and how much time making a print will consume. It is important for consumers to understand that an artists puts manual labor into every individual print, and the number of prints made greatly depends on the available time and energy of the artist. Artists are constantly on a schedule to produce work so deadlines become a deciding component in the amount of prints made. The number of prints an artist chooses to make also depends on the purpose they intend for their art. If the intent is to be more exclusive, they will produce fewer prints, but for a higher price per print. If the intent is to provide their art to a larger market of viewers then they will create more prints at a more affordable price. Overall, there is no standard, no rules, and no guide when it comes to editioning prints. Artists must contemplate how they wish their art to be perceived and bought before making their final decision.