Sunday, February 5, 2012

Special Post: Masters of Multiplicity

Richard Estes, D Train, 1988

That's a screenprint? These words repeated as I scampered around Multiplicity the printmaking tour de force now on view at Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Plucked from their permanent collection, the grand exhibition includes many stellar examples of screenprinting. Richard Estes' D Train (above) is a mind boggling masterpiece. Color counting was futile—as was trying to imagine how the print was engineered—so I succumbed to taking in the classic New York scene, pre 9-11.

Favorite artist and erstwhile graphic designer Barbara Kruger (top row, below) combines found lithograph photography with her trademark typeface Futura Bold in Untitled (We will no longer be seen and not heard). "Using sign language, gestures and words to create and contradict meaning, [Kruger] employs language to question cultural stereotypes." Ocean Surface (middle row) by Latvian born Vija Celmins provides a brilliant example of achieving subtle tonal variation in the binary world of screenprinting. A close look reveals the many gradual grey plates that build the illusion of gradation. Ross Bleckner's Just Because #2 (bottom row) shatters the stereotype of flat color screen prints. By printing with translucent inks and glossy iridescent overlays, his biomorphic shapes pulse with luminosity. I often ask: which artists are pushing the boundaries of screenprinting? The multiple choice is mostly here.  — Marty Ittner

Top to bottom: Barbara Kruger, Vija Celmins and Ross Bleckner
1st floor West, American Art Museum
8th & F Sts. NW, Washington, DC
November 11, 2011 – March 11, 2012