WATANABE STUDIO LTD.
In the mid-1970s, Jo Watanabe laboriously taught himself screenprinting to help his brother assist Sol LeWitt, who lived in their building, with a project. Perfecting his skills, Jo Watanabe continued to collaborate with LeWitt, first with another printer, then on his own. By the 1980s, Watanabe was in charge of a growing workshop, with many of his skilled printers coming from Pratt, where his brother taught.
In 1988 Watanabe established Watanabe Studio Ltd. at Scholes Street in Brooklyn, later moving to Pacific Street. Most prints were collaborations with Sol LeWitt, although the shop also worked with other artists. LeWitt, sometimes the publisher of his own projects, also brought other publishers to the shop. Watanabe Studio originally focused on screenprinting. However, responding to LeWitt's wishes, Watanabe added intaglio by the late 1980s, woodcut in the 1990s, and linocut in 1999. In 2005, Watanabe briefly moved the shop to Newburgh, New York, before returning to Brooklyn in 2007. After LeWitt's death in April of that year, Jo Watanabe partnered with Pace Editions, as Watanabe Press. From then until 2016, he worked exclusively for Pace Editions and collaborated with Pace Editions artists. Watanabe's mission always remained the same: “to produce good prints.” Watanabe is now retired and living in Japan. Katsumi Suzuki (pictured at right with Tsutomu Kajimoto), Takuji Hamanaka, and Keigo Takahashi, all printers at various times at Watanabe Studio Ltd., provided valuable insights into this workshop, as did Jeff Bergman, Director of Pace Prints, especially into Watanabe Press’s relationship with Pace Editions. –RW
Image: Tsutomu Kajimoto and Katsumi Suzuki. (c. 2014 Gowanus, Brooklyn)