Hard Pressed: 600 Years of Prints and Process
Curated by David Platzker and Elizabeth Wyckoff
On View: November 2, 2000 - January, 2001
International Print Center New York’s Inaugural Exhibition, Hard Pressed: 600 Years of Prints and Process, examined the relationship between aesthetics and technology throughout the history of printmaking and into the present. This exciting exhibition not only situated the fine art print in a larger, historical context, but it also brought to the fore the richness and creativity of the printmaking process. The exhibition was accompanied by a 128 page catalogue published by Hudson Hills Press in association with IPCNY, with full color plates and essays by the curators, David Platzker, independent curator and Director of Printed Matter in Manhattan, and Elizabeth Wyckoff Ph.D., Print Specialist at the New York Public Library. The catalogue is available through IPCNY. The exhibition consists of approximately 150 artworks, which challenge and redefine printmaking in terms of medium and method. Artists represented in the exhibition include Lesley Dill, Louise Bourgeois, Peter Halley, Not Vital, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Emile Nolde, Arthur B. Davies, Edvard Munch, William Blake, Francisco Goya, Jacques Callot, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Albrecht Dürer.
Initially, the nature of the print as a serially produced image was its most powerful characteristic. As a conveyor of visual information in the form of "exactly repeatable pictorial statements," the printed image is credited with advances in the sciences as well as the humanities, and prints were often collected more for their information than for their artistry. An artist could disseminate and promote his work by creating prints himself or by commissioning prints that reproduced his work from a professional printmaker. In the hands of an artist like Rembrandt however, the print verged upon becoming a unique object, close to painting or drawing. This self-conscious notion of the "original print" has become increasingly predominant in the 20th century, culminating in the production of signed, limited editions, which has had the effect of making precious something that is, potentially, endlessly repeatable. There have, in turn, been artists throughout the last century, including Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, and Peter Halley, who have sought to subvert this "preciousness," for political as well as aesthetic reasons.
The early history of printmaking tends to be seen as one of successive refinement, from rudimentary devotional woodcuts of the early15th century to Albrecht Durer’s virtuosic, cross-hatched images of the decades around 1500. Hard Pressed explored how, as new, easier to manipulate media evolved, artists not necessarily trained in the cutting of blocks or plates began to make prints, frequently with unorthodox results: the use of etching by painters is one prominent example from the 16th and 17th centuries. The decision by artists to "mix-and-match" printing methodologies has compelled the practice to constantly evolve.
Hard Pressed charted the intricacies of innovative printmaking as it has evolved over the past six centuries, illuminating the respective roles of artists, master printers, and publishers. The continual reinvention of the print, from chiaroscuro woodcut to etching, lithography, photo-offset, and high definition digital imaging, bears witness to the tendency towards individual and collaborative participation in the development of new and the revival of old techniques.
The presentation of Hard Pressed in New York was accompanied by artist’s and curator’s talks, workshop visits and other educational programming. Following its run in the home venue, the Exhibition traveled to Boise, Idaho, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Naples, Florida.
Tour dates were:
March 3-May 6, 2001: Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho
June 8-Sept 9, 2001: Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Oct.16, 2001-Jan.6, 2002: Naples Museum of Fine Art, Naples, Florida
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