New Prints 2009/Spring -
Selected by Polly Apfelabum
April 23 - May 30, 2009
In a variation on the curatorial essay format, IPCNY conducted an interview with Polly Apfelbaum on the subject of printmaking and the work she selected for New Prints 2009/Spring.
PA: The irony is that I studied printmaking and painting in art school, but then moved in another direction for 20 years. I didn’t make prints, and honestly was not so interested. I have to credit J-P Russell and his very open way of working at Durham Press that I reconnected to the world of prints.
I remember going to the Print Fair for the first time. It was so different from the other art fairs. The work was very diverse – and there is a craft and technical dimension that’s interesting. I like the immediacy and tactility – you can get close to things.
IPCNY: In terms of imagery, what did you find in making your selection for IPCNY?
PA: Right now, in my own work I’m very interested in abstraction. So, I thought the work I would be selecting would be leaning that way. Being contrary by nature, I also hate when people think they may know what I may prefer. I think my tastes are quite catholic. I did not put a lot of flowers in because right now I’m deflowering in my own work. Yes, there probably is a lot of color. I work very intuitively; there is no method to the madness.
IPCNY: Right, but the only honest way to make a selection is to react to what touches you.
PA: Totally. I like things that are offbeat, I think a certain lightness of touch is important in prints. What I hope for is a kind of implied narrative that might allow for conversations from work to work that takes on another life once all the work is in the room.
IPCNY: When an artist looks at art, is it different from what curators or collectors or publishers may be interested in seeing? I would think that it is very visceral.
PA: I hope so, you also think about being on the other end of the stick. I’ve only done this a couple of times. It's really hard. I would have liked to show more work by each artist, but then you would have had to have fewer people in the show. I decided there were so many entries and only so much room in the gallery.
IPCNY: Did you know the work of most of the artists?
PA: Not so many. Some are friends, others are artists I’ve followed, and there are artists I’ve only recently seen in galleries, Tauba Auerbach for example, who is in the current show at the New Museum. Right now, there seems to be a lot of interest in contemporary graphic imagery. I think that’s interesting, the back and forth between the fine art world and the commercial. It seems to be a trend, this intersection between commercial imagery and printmaking. Artist- curators also think of the artists they would like to show with. I wouldn't mind showing with Richard Tuttle.
IPCNY: With all this energy, why aren’t more galleries interested in exhibiting prints?
PA: It’s a very different world, and. I think many dealers still consider it a secondary art form. On the one hand they don’t make so much money, because there usually are more people involved, and they also don’t like giving up control. You don’t have separate sculpture galleries or painting galleries. Photography and drawing have entered the "real art world," but for some reason, prints are still separate. People like to put things in categories. One of the things I like about prints is that more people can have them, and it’s a long history. However there is still a sort of ghetto for prints, which is good and bad.
IPCNY: What’s good about it?
PA: It’s a nice club. You find like-minded friends. In New York, there are a lot of new printshops opening in Brooklyn. And so it’s interesting that a new generation of artists and printers are now getting involved, perhaps because it’s a hand’s on, collaborative practice. Some of these new shops are represented in the show, and they are making prints with a lot of artists whose work I didn't know either. That's great; I think there is new energy out there.
IPCNY: Are artists also doing their own printing?
PA: They are. This includes Orna Feinstein and Steven Ford, whom I didn’t know. They each printed and published their own work. I like that. It’s an optimistic thing; it’s refreshing that printmaking can be so fluid.
IPCNY: Prints allow an artist to try out ideas in many more different ways than, say, making a drawing.
PA: For me, the big difference is working with other people; drawing is more private, more intimate. I am a do-it-yourself type of artist usually, and this took me a while, but now I really enjoy the collaboration. Its gets you out of yourself, you try things you might not have done on your own.
IPCNY: It’s a different way of approaching an image.
PA: Totally. It took us a long time to figure out my way of making prints, or my understanding of making prints. I think a lot of people believe printmaking is easy but it really takes time to develop your chops.
I got back into printmaking almost by accident. I went to visit my Brazilian friend Beatriz Milhazes while she was making prints at Durham Press, I thought, oh this is a nice adventure, I’ll just drive to Pennsylvania. They asked if I would like to make prints, and I said, well, maybe, but without giving it a lot of thought. Just ‘why not?’ It was at a point in my career where I wanted to try new things, shake things up a bit. I had just finished a mid-career survey and wanted to give my installation work a rest. I’ve been working with prints for more than six years now. It's really is hard to make a good print - they just don't roll off the presses.
New York City, April, 2009
© International Print Center New York