NEWS ARTICLE | The Church Examines Nuanced Art of Printmaking in Sag Harbor
January 17, 2024 - By Oliver Peterson for Dan's Papers
Nanette Carter, Untitled, 1989, multicolored woodcut on Arches Paper, 48 x 35 in.
The Church Examines Nuanced Art of Printmaking in Sag Harbor
BY Oliver Peterson
Open through February 25 at The Church in Sag Harbor, Master Impressions: Artists and Printers on the South Fork (1965 – 2010) is a sort of master class in demonstrating how the art of printmaking is far more complex, interesting and creative than simply duplicating an existing image on paper. The exhibition not only pays close attention to the 26 featured artists who have spent time working on the South Fork, it recognizes the role of the printers who helped bring their creations to fruition and the techniques used to do it.
Each print in the show was selected by The Church Workshop and Residency Manager Samuel Havens, who is a printmaker in his own right, along with Chief Curator Sara Cochran, who says the younger staff member has experience working with a number of printers and he teaches the craft to others.
“It was exciting to see through his eyes,” Cochran says of working with Havens on this exhibition. “Each of the prints he chose because they displayed a really interesting aspect of either the process of printing or how artists can work in this medium,” she continues. “There’s a kind of alchemy that happens when three entities come together, and those entities would be the artist, the printer, and the press, and that’s just incredibly exciting because the press sometimes does things that can surprise both the printer and the artist,” Cochran adds, noting Havens’ interest in the collaborative aspects of printmaking.
“As a printmaker, I know the magic of the press and I am excited to share this exhibition that celebrates the medium. The works in this show continue The Church’s characteristic way of exploring and examining the bounty of the East End within the global context of contemporary art,” Havens says.
Master Impressions pulls work from a range of sources, including getting materials directly from the artists, and from a number of local art museums and institutions, such as The Madoo Conservancy, the Parrish Art Museum, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Guild Hall, which shared a number of pieces with The Church.
“The generosity of our sister institutions was just amazing,” Cochran says.
Local godfather of printmaking, Dan Welden, who pioneered various toxin-free processes, invented the solarplate print technique and was the printer for lots of artists in the show, also provided a large number of prints through his Hampton Editions, Ltd. print studio in Sag Harbor.
Welden is one of just two artists in the exhibition (along with Gerson Leiber) who printed his own piece on display — in this case “Orange Mist,” a 1999 woodcut and monoprint on paper. Along with Welden and Leiber, the show presents works by Romare Bearden, Nanette Carter, Robert Dash, Elaine de Kooning, Eric Fischl, Dan Flavin, Connie Fox, April Gornik, Grace Hartigan, Mary Heilmann, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Fay Lansner, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Longo, Robert Motherwell, Alfonso Ossorio, Ellen Peckham, Jackson Pollock, Abraham Rattner, Dan Rizzie, James Rosenquist, Esteban Vicente, and Hale Woodruff.
The techniques and aesthetics are as diverse as the collection of participating artists who are a mix of contemporary stars and long dead legends.
“He wanted works where the medium is being pushed toward things that are complicated,” Cochran says of Havens’ curatorial approach. “Nanette Carter’s piece is amazing because she was working with red ink on black paper and it was just being absorbed into the black paper, but she just kept working on it and building up the layers until eventually she reached this just exquisite print where you have all of that — you have layering, you have texture in just the way of exploring the technique for itself, which was sort of amazing.
“We have lithographs, we have etching, we have solar plates, we have woodcuts, so we have a real diversity of media, of types of printing, on display,” Cochran adds, also pointing a beautifully gestural print by Robert Motherwell using the sugar lift technique. “You end up with this print where you just have this extraordinary deep and velvety black defining the gesture,” she says of the print with three bold brushstrokes.
Another of her favorites is a posthumously printed and untitled Jackson Pollock composition that feels more like Roberto Matta or Arshile Gorky than the abstract expressionist drips most people associate with the painter.
“The Pollock is exceptional. Pollock is really somebody who did not do a lot of prints and the print that we have is one of a series that he did just before he moved to Springs, and I think that move and the greater space, it became a different moment in Pollock’s life, leading to the invention of the drip painting,” Cochran says, explaining the importance of the piece that speaks to Pollock’s surrealist beginnings. “Those works were re-found and printed posthumously, but it really points to that moment in Pollock’s life,” she adds. “It’s just a really interesting and exciting piece to have.”
As usual, the Church has done a brilliant job curating another compelling exhibition that will educate and amaze. Each of the pieces on view has its own story about the artist, the printer and the press that is worthy of further exploration.
“Really what Sam is looking at is this deep conversation between artists and printers using a medium that allows something very different in the work and something really experimental, and that’s exciting,” Cochrane says, noting earlier, “Sam was definitely looking for pieces that pushed the envelope.”
See Master Impressions in-person at The Church in Sag Harbor, 48 Madison Street, or visit thechurchsagharbor.org to learn more and to sign up for the January 27 curatorial tour of the show or one of Havens’ upcoming printmaking workshops in January or February.
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