The Art of the Print; Andy Warhol’s Los Angeles ‘Trip’

In today’s digital age it is possible for almost anyone to produce a reasonable reproduction of almost any image. Voila the giclee! However, long before the creation of the printing press, artisans produced printed images using painstaking methods requiring a high level of technical and artistic talent.

The first prints were likely wood block prints used in the production of patterned fabrics. Later the same technique was used to create images on flat surfaces including paper. In the 15th century different forms of etching techniques were used to produce highly detailed images. Today’s print artists use a variety of techniques requiring both technical and artistic expertise to create limited editions of artistic images.

Beginning with a reception Saturday, Aug. 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Peninsula Gallery will present the work of four print makers in an exhibition titled The Art of the Print.

Nancy Darrell, for example, began life as a potter but became fascinated with the creation of a wood cut image. Calling the mountains around Asheville, N.C., home, Darrell works with both linocut and wood cut techniques to create strongly contrasted images of the country around her. Many in black and white with a minimum of shading show how such strongly contrasted images can serve to enhance the spirit of her images. She also prints in color using a technique known as reduction printing in which each color is separately printed using the same block after removal of more and more of the image.

Nancy McIntyre works to create vibrantly colored and nuanced images using a silkscreen process also called a serigraph. In this process each color is applied through a different stencil or screen. A recent review of her work noted: “At first glance, the work of Nancy McIntyre looks like a series of delicately crafted watercolor paintings depicting inviting scenes of city store fronts and quaint beach houses. It is upon further inspection that one realizes that they are actually screen prints which are carefully composed of over 100 transparent layers of ink all seamlessly blended together to form exquisite interplays of light, shadow and rich color.”

Matt Smith, a former commercial fisherman now living in New Hampshire, uses a variation of intaglio printing to create colorful images of animals of seacoast and sea. In this technique a thin copper plate is etched with tools and mild forms of acid to create an image in relief. Inks are then applied by hand and the plate put through a rolling press, bringing the copper plate into contact with moistened paper under very heavy pressure which transfers the image to the paper. Using such a technique, Smith can alter the coloring of each image and thus create a great variety in his impressions.

Elizabeth Peak of Arlington, Va., uses an intaglio process similar to Smith’s. First she creates a watercolor painting to establish the color range she wishes to use in the final print. She then creates an etching on a metal plate. Inks of different color and thickness are then used to create the finished plate that is transferred to paper using a press. She is known for her urban as well as rural landscapes that heavily emphasize form and structure. In the words of a review of her work, “She creates images which transcend specific times and places and become generalized visual statements. In all her work, she seems to be striving to reconcile the specific everyday subject with its broader symbolic meanings.”

The Peninsula Gallery, at 520 E. Savannah Road, is currently in its 19th year and presents the work of more than 20 local, regional and international artists in addition to monthly exhibitions March to December. The gallery also provides fine art framing and restoration services. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday. Framing consultations are Tuesday through Saturday. The gallery is closed Monday. Phone 302-645-0551.t600-1382669a t1200-1382669c2015-08-03-trip-1200x398

THE DAILY PIC (#1365): Microhistory is about digging out tiny bits of what happened in the past and how it felt to be there. Microbiography might be the name to use for what Deborah Davis has done in her new book called The Trip, which launched last week. Davis has unpacked a few weeks in the life of Andy Warhol in the fall of 1963, when he was just spreading his wings as a Pop artist and popular celebrity. The “trip” in question is Warhol’s cross-country drive from New York to Los Angeles, where he was launching his second Pop-art solo. His  traveling companions were the painter Wynn Chamberlain, the actor Taylor Mead and the poet Gerard Malanga. (He’s the hunk posing with Warhol in today’s Pic, somewhere near the time of their cross-country adventure.) But one of Davis’s best moments comes with her description of another protagonist along for the ride: The Ford Falcon they traveled in. Davis gives lovely and loving detail about the precise cultural meaning of that car at that time.

I’ll just ad a couple of minor bits of context to her account.

First, the Pittsburgh that Warhol grew up in was a surprisingly un-car-y place. Automobiles were a luxury out of reach of most of its working-class citizens, including the Warhola clan – which explains why Warhol never learned to drive. (Although we have documents proving that he later tried.) Pittsburghers’ normal means of transportation was an absurdly extensive trolley system, which, in an effort to prove its wealth and modernity, the city later replaced with highways. All of which is just by way of showing that Davis is right to dwell on that trip to L.A. as something more notable for Warhol than it might have been for many other Americans. When he got to L.A. and was feted, it would have been proof of having “arrived”, in many senses of the world.

One other little detail that might have made that seem so. In early 1949, during Warhol’s last term in Pittsburgh’s excellent art school, he and his classmates were told to illustrate All The King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren’s new Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about American political culture. The drawings Warhol made, based on news photos and done in his new “blotted-line” style, were the source of at least the next ten years of his art – only to be superseded, not long before his L.A. trip, by the invention of his new Pop-art techniques.

And here are the opening lines in that important Warholian novel:

To get there you follow Highway 58, going northeast out of the city, and it is a good highway and new. Or was new, that day we went up it. You look up the highway and it is straight for miles, coming at you, with the black line down the center coming at and at you, black and slick and tarry-shining against the white of the slab, and the heat dazzles up from the white slab so that only the black line is clear, coming at you with the whine of the tires, and if you don’t quit staring at that line and don’t take a few deep breaths and slap yourself hard on the back of the neck you’ll hypnotize yourself and you’ll come to just at the moment when the right front wheel hooks over into the black dirt shoulder off the slab, and you’ll try to jerk her back on but you can’t because the slab is high like a curb, and maybe you’ll try to reach to turn off the ignition just as she starts the dive.

In lots of ways, Warhol’s “trip” gave him a chance to live what he’d only imagined. (Photo ©2015 Edward Wallowitch all rights reserved)

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