PaperWorkers Local

PaperWorkers Local

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

10 Years of Printmaking at the University of Alabama

Friday March 21, 2014  - 5:30 to 9:00 pm.
3815 Clairmont Avenue, Birmingham, Al 35243

The work in this exhibition comes from an archive that documents ten years of printmaking classes at the University of Alabama.  "What is printmaking?" you may ask, and a multiplicity of answers exists.  Printmaking is a history of graphic processes that is inexorably linked to the history of information exchange.  Printmaking is a history of graphic processes that is inexorably linked to the history of information exchange.  Printmaking is an imaging process that has ties to both the fine art and commercial worlds.  Printmaking is etching, engraving, woodcut, silkscreen, lithography, and a host of techniques in between.  Printmaking is a vibrant voice in contemporary art.

Four elements define the essence of "print": a matrix, a transfer medium, a receiving surface, and the potential for repeatability.  An imprint is the manifestation of a physical object; the surface of the print matrix, which holds the image, directly touches the surface onto which the image is printed.  The two are separated only by a thin layer of transfer medium, which records the moment of contact. Leaving an imprint is the basis of printmaking, whether the matrix is a carved block of linoleum transferring ink to handmade paper, or a carved automobile tire transferring mud to the pavement as the car is driven.  Each print in this show is part of an edition a group of multiple originals, as alike as the artist's hand could make them.  Time and attention are spent on developing the image of the matrix, and on the process of creating the transferred impressions.

From the fifteenth century until the invention of photography in the nineteenth century, print was the primary vehicle for circulating both images and text.  The idea of printmaking belongs with ideas about how people communicate with one another, and the concept of the multiple is essentially populist and democratic.  Students work side by side in the print studio, sharing equipment and materials.  The collaborative, social nature of the the shop offers many unique opportunities.  For this reason I have chosen to highlight the efforts of the students as a group rather than focus on individual authorship.  Some of the impressions in this show are signed and dated while some are anonymous.  Each represents a moment in the larger narrative of a collective experience.

More important than the complex of tools, terms, and processes that attend each print medium is the unique visual vocabulary emanating from those processes.  Examine the prints and consider how they are alike, and unlike, one another.  Decide for yourself what that might mean.  Art students are learning to express ideas in the form of images and objects.  Often, the questions that drive this studio  practice come from different academic disciplines and other areas of their lives.  Do you see the fundamental human experiences reflected in the images on these walls?  Pause for a moment and reflect; making, looking at, and talking about art are powerful ways of examining the narratives that structure our understanding of the world.

Sarah Marshall
Associate Professor of Art, Printmaking, The University of Alabama

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