Monday, October 9, 2017

monotype workshop

Members of Nelson Atkins Print Society listened to Aaron Shipps (in plaid shirt) share the unique printmaking processes at his studio.


Shipps had set out a 36 by 48 inch plexiglas plate on the work table (above). The upper portion was inked with yellow and orange and a wash. 

Members took turns using oil-based stick pigments and a turpentine wash from a cup. On another plexiglas palette the turp helped turn the color sticks into color wash mixtures (next).








One dragged the turp mixture on her brush through the yellow-orange portion, which softened the ink and the hairs of the brush stroke removed portions. Later on, the color of the paper would show through these places. Taking off ink is called subtraction (above).




Others smooshed the colors by brush onto the plate. Many independent strokes. The joy of creating. Collaboration among artists was what that studio was all about. In the end their experimenting was rolled through the rollers of the press onto a fresh sheet of paper.

 

Shipps pulled the proof and everyone saw the image they helped create. It was called a monotype. That is, one unique impression. 1/1 

Photos by John Mallory. Text by Karl Marxhausen



Photos by John Mallory. Text by Karl Marxhausen

Visit took place Saturday, September 16th, at Bedrock Art Editions Studio, downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Woodcut Society Exhibition Hall Tour - Katelyn Crawford

Katelyn Crawford led us on an in depth tour of The 1930s in Prints: A Gift to Kansas City from the Woodcut Society in Gallery 214.  Transcribed excerpts from Hall tour follow:

 

Katelyn Crawford [KC]: So I will share a few details, then feel free to circulate….. What I will point out, to the extent of our conversation we were just having in the library, is that the exhibition is really organized with the commissioned prints on this wall [to left] and prints circulated in the exhibition, a small collection of that much larger body on this wall [to right]. We have commissioned prints through the Thirties to Thirty-Nine and then the prints circulated in the exhibition by the Woodcut Society. And everything in this gallery came in 1935 and 1939, and were given by Alfred Fowler to the Nelson Adkins.



Arthur Allen Lewis, American, 1873 - 1957
Saint Francis Preaching To The Birds, 1933
Color woodcut on paper

[Image for this post courtesy of Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City, Missouri, accessed October 2012, Karl Marxhausen]


Viewer: So many interesting anecdotes.

Katelyn Crawford [KC]: We can just turn and look at the case, one of the wonderful things I think that we were able to do with this show, is show one full folio as opposed to just having the print detached from its context. Every commissioned print that was circulated in a folio of this type, as I was saying before, had an essay about the piece. 
 


KC: Some of the essays were written by the artist, as in this case, in this instance Allen Lewis. Others were written by curators or sellers. What is wonderful about this particular folio is that Allen Lewis designed the entirety of it. He designed the type, he designed the graphics. And he created his essay. So you have that as a single artistic product, as opposed to something that was sort of matted in to a bigger folio. So I was really happy to show that intact in this manner. 



KC: Also very cool, this is on the back of it, he indicates that it was printed on a Washington hand press. 

 Washington hand press
[photo accessed June 19, 2017]

KC: So he is very specific in terms of how it was printed, knowing how it was going to print.


KC: Allen Lewis, okay another cool detail. This is hard because we are a big group. But Allen Lewis also having designed the typeface which was used in the New Yorker [magazine]. Which is why for a book he was involved in the design for, in the early Teens, which is why that is the [same] typeface we used for [the heading of] the show.



May Aimee Smith, British, 1886 - 1962
Vase of Flowers, 1934
Wood engraving on paper


Katelyn Crawford [KC]:  So I’ll point out the May Amiee Smith, which I talked about a bit, because what a beautiful feature being juxtaposed with a Birgen Sandzen. This is a really wonderful example of a very specific wood engraving technique, the use of the multiple tool, which is what Claire Leighton is drawing attention to. It is pervasive through May Aimee Smith’s work. It is really the only way to create the checkered grid in the background. It is a wonderful example, but what is a difficult and dangerous tool to use in creating wood engravings. 


 

Walter Joseph Phillips, English-born Canadian, 1884 - 1963
Vista Lake, 1932
Wood engraving on paper 

[Image for this post courtesy of Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City, Missouri, accessed October 2012, Karl Marxhausen]


Katelyn Crawford [KC]: There is a wonderful quote in one of the Woodcut Bulletins from Walter J Phillips about Vista Lake. It is essentially an understatement of friends after creating a color woodcut before working with an black and white wood engraving. When I first came to this print I thought it might be over inked. And though it is interesting I will read this to you. Walter J Phillips writes:”The proportions of black and white in a woodcut should not be gauged by rule. Size and purpose besides technical considerations all have a very common matter….. Black and white illustrators prefer a light gray effect, approximating that of a page of type. My print, this print of Vista Lake, is blacker than either. Too black for book illustration, but I hope not too black to stand alone.“   So, I think it is interesting that in this first wider row of woodcuts, that Walter Joseph Phillips worked out what he was doing…..

Robin Gross: It looks completely different here than when I was standing up close. It did look like a black, a solid black. But back here I can see the mountain side, the trees growth.

KC: I am glad I came across that quote again, because it re-contextualizes this work for me.


Clare Leighton, British 1898 - 1989
No photo

KC: I will point out the Clare Leighton, what we were talking about upstairs. If you are looking for an extraordinarily proficient wood engraver, she is your gal. These are beautiful. They are full of detail. She uses every tool that is available to her to create her prints. She is just so well known for that in the moment. Which is also something I found interesting while focused working on this show. 
 


Norbertine Bresslern-Roth, Austrian, 1891 -1978
Phantoms, 1934
Color woodcut on paper

[Image for this post courtesy of Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City, Missouri, accessed October 2012, Karl Marxhausen]


KC: You got really really famous print makers like Claire Leighton juxtaposed with people well known or unknown at all. I am trying to think of who is like that. Well we had but we don’t have Bresslern-Roth anymore. So she was quite well known in the moment. So you have this really wide mix of professionals and amateurs, both then and today.

John Mallery [JM]: And male and female.

KC: And male and female. Fifty percent female. Which I almost never view in any gallery in American Art. And it happens naturally, because I think really printmaking is so much more acceptable in the moment. Again we are talking about affordability in the library.

KC: So women had an entree into this medium, and you can create in your home. You don’t need a press to create these prints. It is much more acceptable, and I think that is part of why you see so many women in this space.



Elizabeth Norton, American 1887 - 1985
On Guard, 1934
Color woodcut on paper




Mabel Amelia Hewitt, American, 1903 - 1984
Provincetown Backyards, 1934
White-line color woodcut on paper

 


Grace Martin Taylor,  American, 1903 -1995
Charleston Cottages, 1932
White-line color woodcut on paper 


Blanche Lazzell, American 1878 - 1956
No photo
White-line color woodcut on paper
 
Katelyn Crawford [KC]: The white-line woodcuts are beautiful. It is a privilege to feature the work of Blanche Lazzell juxtaposed with the work of two of her students, who she trained in her Provincetown studio. Again, Blanche Lazzell, a really really well-known printmaker. An astonishingly proficient printmaker.

KC: Who I feel lucky to have it in this show. But very cool to have her work juxtaposed with her students. You can see the shift in technique even. Between what she is doing with that white-line woodcut technique, the Provincetown technique, and what her students were doing with it.




Warren Bryan Mack, American 1896 - 1952
No photo

KC: Warren Bryan Mack prints are an example of an amateur in this space, but you would never know it. Because they are so exceptionally detailed and beautiful.

KC: He is actually a professor in Agriculture in Pennsylvania, who made these essentially in his free time. But becomes so talented in this medium, that he not only circulating his work in these exhibitions. He becomes a member of the National Academy of Design. So he does develop a reputation for these woodcuts. And they are astonishing. I wanted to put one of his works together in the show, and when I had these prints together in the viewing room everyone who came in zoomed into these. And wow, just the details. So I thought we had to have two.



Susan Geringer [SG]: I’m not much of a label reader but I realized that this was one pass. These are not separate blocks. That kind of blew my mind. Each one of these areas were inked and then one pass through the press or through the whatever.

KC: But probably rubbed by hand.

SG: Yes, hand rubbed. Nonetheless, doesn’t that knock you out?

KC: With these fine white lines separating those areas of color, it should shock you. I did some programming with kids at the Kansas City Art Institute printmaking department, in conjunction with this show involved. None of them, the instructors or students. No people could believe that this could possibly have been done in a single pass. But what is really wonderful, I think I finally won this argument, after many many conversations. You see the GRAIN of the BLOCKS, is uniform all the way through, all of those patches of color. It really is a single pass. There are not multiple blocks here. And I don’t think it is a technique I feel a lot of people use any more. But that is obviously very popular in the Twenties and Thirties and is pioneered by these Provincetown print makers.

Viewer: Is it that more difficult?

KC: So, well, it is a single block, not a multiple. You know, I think it is difficult in different ways. And I think Lazzell gets this technique because it seems more tedious from her perspective. You only have to carve one block. It creates a very different effect. But at the same time, it takes a great deal of care and precision to ink this block. As opposed to a line angle and do multiple passes on the print.

John Mallery [JM]: It is my understanding that to do a white-line, a print style was developed. It was trying to replicate Japanese woodblock printmaking by using only one block. Also I think I read one used watercolour paints. So they weren’t actually drawing on it, but were painting it on.

KC: I was getting the idea in these exhibits they were probably masking areas they were painting on. Or working from the center out and had to mask areas.

SG: Oh you have to.

KC: Yes.

JM: There is also, she only did editions of five for each print. And you can actually see, I think the Boston Museum of Fine Art has another copy of this print and the colors are completely different.

KC: Yes, I love that. You would get a completely different print with each pass. 
 
KC: Mabel Amelia Hewitt also had a number of her blocks at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and so you can actually see some of the color blending on the block. As well as multiples of her print.


Jessiejo Eckford, American, 1895 - 1941
The Lineman, 1932
Woodcut on paper



Katelyn Crawford [KC]: We are trying to get at things Fowler does not shy away from. And some of them are social issues. Particularly as the exhibition circulates, there are a number of prints that deal with contemporary, political, and social issues. And one example is Jessiejo Eckford’s The Lineman, just a beautiful print unto itself. But it is also something that I think for the contemporary viewer, in that moment, in that exhibition, would have raised questions about rural electrification. Thomas Barrett’s Home Brew, again, it brings up the Prohibition, a very political issue in that moment.


Thomas Barrett, American, 1902 - 1947
Home Brew, 1932
Woodcut on paper


Thomas Nason, American, 1889 - 1971
Wood engraving on paper

[Image for this post courtesy of Kansas City Public Library, Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City, Missouri, accessed October 2012, Karl Marxhausen]


12:39 KC: Thomas Nason’s [print] is a really interesting technique, something you don’t see very often. He is actually printing a black and white wood engraving with three blocks, to create the subtle gradation in his prints. Beautiful and unusual.




Eric Slater, British, 1896 - 1963
The Stackyard, 1938
Color woodcut on paper  

[Image for this post, courtesy of https://art.famsf.org/eric-slater/stackyard-1982176, accessed September 9, 2017]

KC: I would point this out this Eric Slater’s The Stack Yard, in part because it suggests there was sometimes a disconnect between the artist and the folio. In that, the folio essay for this print indicates that Eric Slater hand rubbed each of the two hundred prints. And so I thought that was odd, but went ahead and put it in my label. There is no way that can be the case. Now that I have been looking at it under gallery lighting. You see the impression lines. This suggests to me it had to have been printed on a press. And so it was interesting, that they said many years later, “typically” he hand rubbed the print. And what he said in first writing the essay that accompanied this print. But with the edition of two hundred, it was printed on a press.


We can circulate. Thank you all.


 
Seventeen minutes. Gallery 214. 

Spencer Library talk LINK
Fowler's First Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Woodcuts 1933 LINK

Video and photos by Karl Marxhausen. Hall tour with Katelyn Crawford. The 1930s in Prints: A Gift from the Woodcut Society, in Gallery 214. April 27th, 7:00 to 7:30 PM, 2017



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

questions

woodcut society works in
nelson atkins storage

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The Nelson Atkins museum opened December 11, 1933. Two hundred and twelve Woodcut Society works were actually given to the museum early in its history. There was a large group were given in 1935, and then a smaller supplementary group were given in 1939. 

When will more be displayed for public view ? 


post by Karl Marxhausen