Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New: York & Haven

It was another print-packed week, beginning in New York at the IFPDA print fair and the Editions and Artist’s Book Fair -- followed by several days in New Haven working at the newly renovated study room at the Yale University Art Gallery and at the Yale Center for British Art.

A
t the Yale University Art Gallery I saw, for the first time, the vitriolic First World War images of George Bellows, which are hard to purge from ones mind, having seen them, yet they feel wildly exaggerated and in need of purging. It was a different kind of eye-opener to see the believable nightmare that haunted the usually lyrical Kerr Eby: a shed of cadavers around the table at which their living incarnations had been surprised and massacred.


A
cross the street, in England, I was moved by a great swath of seemingly benign mother and child imeas etched by William Lee Hankey around 1919; presumably the women were all war widows. I don’t think I can so easily summarize Paul Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson, whose work creeps in and stays for awhile.


R
eturning to New York, it was heartening to visit the opening of the Prints Gone Wild
exhibition in Brooklyn, with all its sure signs of life. Here is Joseph Velasquez of Drive By Press carving a Mellanesque self-portrait on a van-mounted press bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stuttgart and Home

I recently returned from my travels. It is great to be back with family, but I am still in denial about being back in the USA. I suspect that I saw about 30,000 prints in all, many done between 1914-1918, but I took time in some collections to look extensively at early ornament prints and to look at landscape images from the “age of Goethe,” namely the eighteenth and early nineteenth-centuries. Some of the more striking works I have seen include a literal rendering of a bombed factory with all of its huge iron gears exposed looking, for all the world, like an abstraction by Robert Michel (the WW I pilot who crashed his plane and then recovered in Weimar where he became an early member of the Bauhaus); a portfolio about the suffering of horses in the war; a 1918 portfolio of woodcuts and linoleum cuts made by a German artist in a U.S. prisoner of war camp in Georgia; elaborate, sixteenth-century geometrical fantasies in woodcut; and some of the more sublime images of great oaks, living and dead, ever conceived.

Until the outmoded concept of image copyright sorts itself out or is altogether abandoned I will share, instead of the works described above, these four stencil prints that are unquestionably in the public domain -- I saw them on the walls of the train station in Wolfegg. They tell a complex story.

My last stop was Stuttgart, whose Staatsgalerie has a remarkable collection of graphic arts (the top two floors are visible in this photograph). In addition to working with their deep collection I made weekend trips with a friend and excellent guide to the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim and to Ludwigsburg Palace, residence of the dukes of W├╝rttemberg. At the latter, which houses many collections, I noticed an eighteenth-century fan that had been decorated with prints.

I want to thank the many colleagues and other friends who helped me over the past two months. I’ve learned a lot from you all: that 500-year-old prints can be found stuck in the masonry of old buildings, that one can find art while looking for turtles (or prints, while taking piano lessons), that grapefruit can be eaten with curries and ground chili peppers, that printing with gun powder is as dangerous as it sounds, that printroom staff can and probably should include a dog, and that you have not given up on us perhaps because you remember that when you were very very young an American soldier standing across the street in your bombed city smiled and offered you a stick of gum.