Friday, January 21, 2011

Printmaking and the "Grand Scale"

A couple posts back I talked about chainsaws and good cheap vodka. I keep thinking about the title and how it grates on me, how quickly I decided I wasn't making art. Off The Art Clock apparently illustrates an amnesia of personal creative history.

Recently, I was sifting through some flat files to make way for new work when I came across a series of 4-color photo lithographs from grad school. The series contains images of the grind, working on a kitchen line. I put myself through two university degrees by slinging hash.

While making puffy tacos in a small Texmex kitchen I pondered the magic of the lithographic stone. During the summer of 94' I was fortunate enough to have a brief but immeasurable encounter with Ronald Binks . Binks had agreed to take me on as an independent study that summer, before I shipped to the midwest. Binks cut a large figure and he was relentless in his instruction on the "Grand Scale". I shook my head in agreement during our sessions, so that he would continue, and perhaps a few more pearls would drop. My head was spinning with contemporary art nomenclature, from the lectures of Francis Colpitt, and I was coming to grips with my own interests and how they fit into the art world puzzle. I was wrestling with the personal narrative, the here and now and trying to comply with the Binks/Colpitt accounts of Minimalism, Rome, Albers, German Neo-expressionism, Golub and Judd. I made a lot of work that summer but I was going down divergent paths, listening and reacting to everything. It didn't help that the girl friend situation was a hurling locomotive, over the cliff, car wreck, earth quake..., and I was numbing myself with lithotine and living off black bean tacos and the ink under my nails.

I came right off the press and into St. Louis finding a familiar spot, working at Ciscero's. I think the change in scenery, the quiet, almost lonely and religious air of the studio, coupled with the Ciscero's sphere, helped bring about a new relationship between the "Grand Scale" and a humble life in servitude. I began to understand the language of the WPA printmakers as it pertained to my situation. I was "grandly" poor - check one. I had a new found interest in Dox Thrash - check two, and I was working in tandem with my piers Tom Huck and Howard Paine - check three, four. Tom was and still is producing prints steeped in the topics and mannerisms of early Renaissance and modern printmakers. His language, fortified by the masters, embellishes on the colloquial. I was attending critiques and learning that Tom's work wasn't much appreciated at the time, for it's embrace of printmaking history and I feared the same torture from professors who held the key to becoming contemporary artists.

Howard went about it through digital means. I followed Howard's approach because it was a method I hadn't become familiar with and saw it as an avenue to make "correct" (forward thinking) art. Howard had developed a process of color separation in photo lithography, this was before it became common in the graphic arts. Howard was very generous in sharing his secret and I soon began putting together a language that combined life and art with the study of printmaking on the "Grand Scale".

Images are a selection from the WPA series 94'.

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