Prints and Printmaking
Human beings are deeply possessed by the need to categorize. While this is often a harmless fixation, it can also result in the polarization of the simplest of issues. In the study of prints and printmaking, it materializes as a truly idiosyncratic conundrum. Critics and scholars tend to fixate on printmaking technique, often at the expense of more stimulating discussions of content and concept. The result is a somewhat ghettoized art formundervalued, underrepresented and plagued by misconceptions. In this issue, we seek to deconstruct and dispel enduring myths about prints and printmaking by tackling the medium with the critical verve customarily reserved for painting and sculpture.
In A New State: Reassessing Prints, guest features editor Kathleen V. Jameson introduces us to some of the issues that surround the print including its collaborative nature, questions about multiplicity and seriality, print collections and institutional practice. Jameson received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware. Until very recently, she worked at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in the Departments of Prints & Drawings, and Twentieth Century Art. She is currently Assistant Director of Development, Program Support, at the MFAH. Jameson also curated this issue's Visual Space.
Marisa C. Sánchez, also of the MFAH, explores the ever-expanding territory of digital technology, examining hybridized works that defy categorization by alternately functioning as photographs and prints. Ghost Impression of the Matrix by San Antonio-based writer Wendy Weil Atwell serves as an entry point to institutional collections in Texas and the curators who shape such collectionsa subject also explored in detail by Houston-based gallerist and art historian Hiram Butler, albeit from a more historical perspective.
Mark Smith of Flatbed Press in Austin chronicles the life cycle of independent presses in Texas, as well as the educators and artists who championed the medium in the last century. I discuss agitprop and the role of prints in a social vs. fine art context. Finally, in our profile section Paula Owen of the Southwest School of Art & Craft interviews Jonathan Bober, Margaret Craig, Linda Ridgway, Dan Mitchell Allison, Janet Flohr, Gary Nichols, Sam Coronado, Catherine Chauvin and Mark Smith. Posing the same set of questions to each participant, Owen manages to capture the complexity, radical diversity and extensive breadth of contemporary printmaking practice and study.
While I do believe we've made some headway in reassessing the critical value of contemporary prints and printmaking in this issue, there is clearly much to be done in terms of chronicling printmaking practice and theory and redrawing the boundaries of what we currently define as a print. After all, what really distinguishes a print from a conceptual work of art? We no longer ask similar questions about video, performance, photography or painting because we recognize that process and concept are not mutually exclusive. I don't think it is too much to ask to extend the same latitude to the medium of prints.