Tag Archives: printmaking

135Journals: You Should Go to the International Print Fair. Here’s Why.

5 Nov

IMG_2180.jpg(Note: Linocut above by  the author, who graciously gave herself permission to use it.)


If you have the twenty bucks, and you live within a 20, no 50 mile radius of the Big Apple, and you have a few hours free, you would be insane not to gird your loins and race to the The International Art Fair at the New York Armory at 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street either today, November 5, (until 8:00) or tomorrow, November 6, 2016 (until 6:00) .http://www.ifpda.org/content/print-fair

Why, you ask. What is this “Print Fair” (or more properly, “The International Art Fair Presenting Historic Masterworks, 20th Century Icons and Innovative Contemporary Projects” and why should I care?

The Print Fair, friend, is an exhibition of works on paper by some—probably most—of the greatest artists the world has known, curated and displayed for sale by vendors from around the world. It is a chance to get up close to gorgeous artworks that range from hundreds of dollars up to $160,000 or more. Just wandering around, you will pass by historical treasures such as original copies of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, works by Durer and Cranach the Elder and other Old Masters. There are also works by Picasso, Monet, and searingly emotional portraits by Edvard Munch. For those who favor more political and the moving, timeless, political woodcuts of the not-well-enough super-brilliant African-American national treasure Elizabeth Catlett, and the mocking pop art of Andy Warhol. It is hard to express the variety of what you can see here.

Here are a few  highlights from the fair:

Japanese woodcuts by the 19th century master of the Ukiyo-e “pictures of the floating world” School, Utagawa Hirashige. This school of art showed lovely, exotic and haunting scenes of beautiful women, theater, flowers—lovely and ephemeral things that haunt the Japanese esthetic spirit. These prints are amazing for their detail, but also for their incredible use of color and pattern. The subtle shadings of blues are so iridescent that I, a printing novice, cannot even fathom how they are done.

Another surprise for me was the kinetic, expressive artists of the Grosvener school, such as Sybil Andrews and Claude Flight. These artists worked in London in the  1930s, using linocuts brilliantly to express movement and pattern which gave their pieces of everyday scenes (kids running, a motorcar driving, people at a coffee bar)  a fierce futuristic energy reminiscent both of jazz and machines.

Karl Schrag was a painfully beautiful and heartfelt artist whose work depicted the horror of living through World War II in Germany. His work had recently been acquired by the Susan Teller Gallery. http://www.susantellergallery.com.

In fact, noticing what individual collectors chose to collect and talking to gallery owners was one of the great pleasures of being at the fair. After all, these people have dedicated themselves to spending their lives with these artworks. These people are often passionate artists of observation in their own right.  I mention the Susan Teller Gallery because I particularly enjoyed their collection. It  specializes in American works from the 1920s through the 1950s. in addition to Karl Schrag and my much beloved Elizabeth Catlett, many artists whose works just hit me in the gut, among them artists I’d never heard of before, but whose works I really liked, including Betty Waldo Parish, Victor deWilde, and Ansei Yashima.

One Dublin dealer opened up a box containing an extremely expensive and valuable artwork consisting of pages that contained large gold leaf circles to share them with me. I am ashamed to say that I was so stunned by his kindness and the beauty of the work that I forgot both his name and the piece—that I felt as if I were enveloped in magic. He did not have to share this with me, because I obvious did not have 20 billion dollars to buy it, but he could just tell I adored it and he did, too. Afterwards, I told him, “Thank you, I will never forget this experience.” And I will not. It’s stabbing me in the heart that I can’t remember his name. I certainly remember his kind face and his gentle hands, holding the paper so reverently. Sometimes, it feels as if two people just breathe together, seeing something beautiful.  That’s all and that’s everything. Because someone was passionate and made something with care, and other people are alive enough to see it. It’s powerful enough to cut right into your heart. That was one of those moments that make you remember how time tesseracts.

Gettin’ corny now, so I’ll move on. Let’s just say that I would definitely say that I wish I could  give this nice man a  shout out because he could sell anything, and I would buy that damn book if I had 20 billion bucks for sure!

Of course, it would not be an art show without a bit of entertaining bullshit about which to grumble in a misanthropic fashion. There was an artwork that consisted of a high heeled shoe on a stand. Maybe I missed something. And there was a Damien Hirst picture of dots. If Damien Hirst wants to arm wrestle me and tell me why his damned pictures of dots are worth ca$h, I’m game. I like abstract art, and I still say those damned dots are nonsense. This is the reason why your relatives make fun of you when you take them to MOMA. “Right, here’s a corn beef sandwich and you want to call it Icarus Seven.” “No, Mom, it’s actually the guard’s corn beef sandwich.” hahaha.

To return to why you should see the Print Show–now–it is worth going simply because this show brings together works that are rarely seen, because these pieces are for sale, and won’t necessarily end up in museums, but in hands of private collectors. This is your chance to see them. And they are all printworks of one genre, which helps to focus the mind and help you to see a new side of many prominent artists. But even more importantly, there is something profound about experiencing both the individual lines of the artists up close and about being so very close to the paper itself. It feels different and more real to see the actual paper with the actual indentations that was once handled by a real artist.

As a student of printmaking,  I was absolutely astonished by the incredible range of possibilities that different artists brought to paper. Printmaking is difficult, technical, and expensive. There are any number of ways it can go wrong and very few it can go right. Every time a piece of paper is run through a press, the ink can be too thick or too thin, leaving the paper blotchy or empty. It is so hard for it to come out right. So each print is a miracle. Seeing how many of these incredibly delicate miracles still exist today is a breathtaking delight.














I love New Jersey: Cold State, Warm Hearts, Part 1

17 Feb
There's more to New Jersey than its odiferous Turnpike  Here, my neighbors dress up their snow with pumpkins. (Why? A beautiful mystery)

There’s more to New Jersey than its odiferous Turnpike Here, my neighbors dress up their snow with pumpkins. (Why? A beautiful mystery)

I live in New Jersey. That’s right. New Jersey. I’m a Jersey girl and I’m PROUD of it. Yeah, it’s not easy living here. Driving here is like a treacherous video game. It’s five degrees below too damned cold. The ground is covered with that hideous white nonsense that afflicts it each winter. Weekly threatening storm reports mean shortages of toilet paper, shovels, and Cheetos. It isn’t always easy living in the chilly Northeast.

On top of that, New Jersey doesn’t always have a reputation for being the friendliest of the 50 states. But ever since I moved here in my early 20s, I have been pretty delighted with the kind of people I have met. Yes, I have met my share of loudmouthed jerks. And there is no jerk quite out there like a Jersey jerk. Okay, maybe a New York jerk. I guess the good news is, you know exactly where you stand with your neighbors here in Dirty Jerz. There isn’t any of that tinkling-tea-cup fakery of ladies saying, “Why, bless her heart” that our old Southern baby-sitter used to say before launching into a head-to-toe vivisection of her subject’s looks, character and anything else she could think of. When she left our employ, she gave me one of her famous whiplash compliments—“Why, Alexandra,” she said, “I know you’re a good writer. I’ve been enjoying reading your journals all year.” (Disclaimer: I know many awesome Southerners as well).

No, that’s not Jersey style. More likely it’s an in-your-face “Hey, FATSO, NEXT TIME, LAY OFF THE DONUTS.” I am not a big Chris Christie fan (vaccines, anyone?), but even he makes me laugh sometimes. I remember one speech he gave when he promoted a Muslim lawyer to a higher position that really impressed me. In the interests of bipartisanship, may I share a very impressive moment from the governor:

I find a lot of good-heartedness in the people here.  I certainly found it yesterday. First of all, I went to my printmaking class, where I worked with lovely, smart women, including a very energetic and skilled teacher, all of whom were helpful to me, one of the few beginners in the class. [More on THAT later!] Second, I met a helpful artist. And third (which I will also discuss later), I met some very kind people who helped me when I ran out of gas!

So, after my printmaking class, I needed to go to a special art store called Jerry’s Artists Supply for some special paper (and maybe a few free-lance items I haven’t told the husband about yet). Of course, I immediately forgot my teacher’s directions, so I drove down some long and winding wintry road. I stopped a friendly-looking woman who was taking a brisk walk in the cold. I asked her for directions to the art store and she said, “I love that store! And I have that book—“ she pointed to a book on birds that I had on the front seat of my car, “in my art classroom. It’s easy to get to Jerry’s, but you just took a wrong turn. To get there you just . . . hmmm.” She thought for a minute. “Why dont I just show you the local way?”  l I shoved the nonsense I usually have on my car seat to the floor, she hopped in, and showed me a few twists and turns I would never have found by myself. I admired her bravery for walking in such cold (and for her willingness to hop into a stranger’s car) and we talked about the fun of art. Then, at one corner, I stopped, because before us were about 20 deer, including little ones. They looked at us calmly, and crossed the road in a line. I know—deer are a suburban menace. Rats with hooves. But just then, how beautiful they were, with their black noses and big eyes gazing at us, against the backdrop of snow. We both caught our breath(s?). “It was meant to be,” she laughed. We exchanged information to become Facebook friends when we reached the right corner for her to get out, and her directions the rest of the way were perfect. I don’t know if I’ll hear from her again, but I found myself humming happily all the way to Jerry’s. I love meeting people by chance who COULD be friends. There’s a kind of magic in that potential. I wonder what it is that draws one almost instantly to certain people? It just made me happy that I could meet someone walking down a sftreet who felt like my kind of person. And not only that, someone who was just so gratuitously kind.

In Part 2, I will tell you the story of more gratuitous kindness–thank you, Orlando and Joe!

Writing Prompt: Can you think of a time when someone was surprisingly nice to you?