Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Emma Nishimura " Reckoning with Memories "

Queen Sonja Print Award
The Queen Sonja Print Award is the world’s leading award for graphic art, and is presented every two years. Originally a Nordic prize, the prize became international in 2016. The winner receives a cash prize of NOK 400,000 and a residency at the Atelje Larsen art studio in Helsingborg, Sweden.

Curators, museum directors and fellow artists from all over the world nominated forty-two artists for the 2018 Award. The nominees reflect the breadth of contemporary printmaking today, ranging from traditional forms to new approaches involving installation, collage and performance.

In 2018, The Queen Sonja Print Award was given to Emma Nishimura, from Canada.

Emma Nishimura (b.1982) lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Her work ranges from traditional etchings, archival pigment prints, drawings, and audio pieces to art installations. Her work is in public and private collections and has been exhibited nationally and internationally.
The artist explores notions of memory and how history is interpreted and re-negotiated, through a varied use of traditional and contemporary printmaking techniques. Her body of work is exquisite and consistent – exhibiting an exceptional thoroughness of aesthetic. Nishimura bridges the boundaries between mediums. Her works incorporate traditional prints, sculptural objects, installations, audio pieces, photogravures, drawings and writing.

The following is from an interview with Nishimura after receiving the award:

How did your work become so rooted in your own family history?
I got a grant from the Ontario government for a project in which I investigated my heritage and being mixed race. So I went to my mum’s basement, rummaged around, looking for old photos and I came across this box that said “Baachan’s Sewing Patterns”. [Baachan meaning grandmother in Japanese] I open it up and inside there was about 200 miniature paper garments of beautiful craftsmanship. To match all of those clothing patterns were five books of drawings – she had taken a drafting course in 1941 in Vancouver. Inside one of those books was a sheaf of notebook pages dated 1943. It was just Japanese names and measurements. In 1943, she was interned in the camps, she was making clothes in the camps. So, I found this box and I thought how do I talk about her work and her journey? How do I make my own work about all of these stories?

Why choose printmaking?

I’ve always loved working with my hands. And I sewed a lot. I’ve always been very physical with work and manipulated things. I discovered printmaking in high school and then really focused on it in university.

You have incorporated various types of papers – from photographs and written testimonies to maps – in your works. What potency do you think documents have?

It’s how do you make sense of them and what you do with them. I have these amazing photos but then they stay in this album. And there’s something incredibly special about sharing them. I’ve found my way to meeting people who my grandparents knew. But then everything stays tucked away in these boxes, or on the shelf or relegated to a basement. That has been a push in my work, how do I make these accessible.
Thinking about the weight of memory and the stories that are passed down from one generation to the next (and the stories that are lost as well), this body of work explores the idea of what it might look like to package and archive memory. An extension of the Collected Stories series, this work is part of an ongoing installation project that focuses on the narratives surrounding the Japanese Canadian internment.

The series consists of hundreds of small bundled forms, known as furoshiki. This Japanese wrapping technique can be used to both store and protect. It may wrap a gift or be purely utilitarian. Working with photo-intaglio and sculptural papermaking processes, the bundles appear to contain an assortment of objects and have varying illusions of physical weight. However, all of the bundles are empty - mere shells that bear only the traces of what they once held. Many of the forms reveal elements of photographic imagery, small moments that link and connect with different stories and memories. All of the photographs have been archived from family albums, my own, as well as others. I will continue to make more bundles, as I complete further interviews and collect photographs from different storytellers.

Your work looks at the telling and retelling of stories. What interests you about that ongoing process?

Initially when I was doing the research I was talking to my mum and talking to my aunt, realizing that they have very different versions of the same story. All of these gaps. And I went back and reread this novel that I read as a kid and all of a sudden I discovered that what I had concocted as my grandmother’s experience was really that of the main character in the novel. There is this beautiful way that memory conflates. We don’t really know what the real version is.

Do you think there are parallels between the act of printmaking and that of revising and adapting tales?

Absolutely. Everything is endlessly reworked. I can make a finished piece but then I cut it up and reassemble it. Print affords you a bit of a structure but then there are so many steps along the way for different paths to appear.

You have turned prints into three-dimensional sculptural works using photographs and texts relating to the period of the internment. Was that always the plan?

No, I had no idea. I took sculpture early on and thought I don’t know if this is really for me. And now it’s a lot of how I think. With the sculptural pieces, the next step is to really grow that installation. I’ve made 350 and the goal is to make 1,000, for viewers to be really immersed in those stories and those memories.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Robert Riggs: Refined Brutality

Robert Riggs (1896-1970) was an artist well known for his realistic images of the circus, boxing matches, images of the great outdoors and hospital and psychiatric wards. He was born in Decatur, Illinois, and he began his art studies at Millikin University. At the age of nineteen, he won a scholarship to study in New York City at the famed Art Students League. After two years, he moved to Philadelphia to work for the advertising firm A. W. Ayer & Company.

During WWI, Riggs served in Europe with a Red Cross hospital unit where he made sketches of wounded soldiers and horrific battle scenes. He also studied at the French private art academy, Académie Julian.

After the war, Riggs returned to Philadelphia and did freelance magazine illustrations and advertisements. In 1924, he took an extended journey to North Africa, China, Thailand, and the Caribbean islands. He became an avid collector of European, Asian and African artifacts, and his home was like a museum.

Riggs produced most of his graphic art prints between 1934 and 1936, when the economic conditions of the Great Depression made prints popular. He gave up printmaking around 1950 but continued to produce black-and-white drawings for reproduction. His most distinctive prints, however, are unflinching images of mental illness and domestic violence.

Known for his prize-fighting and circus-genre scenes Riggs became a highly successful artist, in the 1930s and 40s. His interest in circus scenes and the grotesque certainly makes sense, given the things he saw when he ran away to join the circus as a young boy.

His subject matter was simplified of all unnecessary detail, favoring basic, yet actively charged symmetrical compositions. He viewed the world in a powerful, almost refined and brutally muscular way. He imbued every subject with great solidity and substance.

He was fascinated with the all-male worlds of the boxing ring and the military, passionate about the muscular male form and of homosocial environments. He seems to have been influenced by some of the other more openly gay illustrator-artists of the day: Jared French, George Tooker, and Paul Cadmus

There is an element of WPA influence in his subjects of men hard at work. His figures are a kind of everyman who does the task he is given, and who takes pride in a job well done. His artwork was stripped down to essential elements. His massive, brutal male figures showed an appreciation for the beauty and raw power of the male form.

1939 - Associate member, National Academy of Design
1946 - Full member, National Academy of Design
Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame
1961 – 1963 - taught at the Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts).

"Robert Riggs was awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence by the New York Art Directors Club for ten consecutive years and received many additional awards."
- Walt Reed

Public Collections
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts
U.S. Library of Congress

Friday, February 22, 2019

Gertrude Hermes: Fluidity of Nature

Gertrude Anna Bertha Hermes OBE RA (1901 – 1983) was an English printmaker and sculptor, born in Kent, England. Her parents were originally from Germany.
She attended the Beckenham School of Art in 1921, and the next year she enrolled at the Brook Green School of Painting and Sculpture, where fellow students included Henry Moore and Blair Hughes-Stanton, (whom she married in 1926, but later divorced in 1933).

Hermes produced a commission for the British Pavilion at the Paris World Fair in 1937. She exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, and her work was included at the Venice International Exhibition in 1939. She worked in Canada from 1940 to 1945.

As a teacher, she taught printmaking at the Central School of Art in London, and she taught printmaking at the Royal Academy Schools. Her graphic work focused on natural themes. Her illustrations were used for books such as Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selbourne, and the famous The Complete Angler.

Her work is in many public collections including the Tate, and the National Portrait Gallery. Her commissions include a fountain for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, and she is included in numerous private collections such as the musician David Bowie.

Associate of the Royal Academy - 1963
Royal Academician - 1971
appointed an OBE -1981

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Nothing Says LOVE like Robert Indiana

Robert Indiana (born Robert Clark, 1928 – 2018) was an American artist associated with the Pop Art movement. He was also a theatrical set and costume designer.
Indiana was born in New Castle, Indiana. He moved to Indianapolis to attend Arsenal Technical High School (1942–1946), from which he graduated as valedictorian of his class. After serving in the United States Army Air Forces, Indiana studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1949–1953) and Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art (1953–1954). He settled in New York City after returning to the United States in 1954.

Indiana lived and worked in a five-story building at Spring Street and the Bowery. In 1973, he bought a lodge in Vinalhaven, Maine where he later resided until his death in 2018.

The bulk of Indiana's work consists of iconic words like his best known piece, called LOVE, in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter "O". The piece originally appeared in a series of poems written in 1958. The image was used for a Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art in 1964, and as an eight-cent U.S. Postal Service postage stamp in 1973.

The first print of "Love" was printed as part of an exhibition poster in 1966.

In 1977, he created a sculptural Hebrew version of LOVE for the Israel Museum Art Garden, in Jerusalem.
In 2008, Indiana created an image showcasing the word "HOPE", and donated all proceeds from the sale of reproductions to Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign, raising in excess of $1,000,000.

For Valentine's Day 2011, he created a similar variation on LOVE for Google, which was displayed on the search engine site's logo.

Between 1989 and 1994, Indiana painted 18 works inspired by the war motifs paintings of Marsden Hartley.
He was the star of Andy Warhol's film Eat (45 minute, 1964), which is a film of Indiana eating a mushroom. Warhol also made the brief silent film Bob Indiana Etc. (4 minutes, 1963), as a portrait of the artist.

In 1964, the architect Philip Johnson commissioned one of Indiana’s pieces for the New York State Pavilion at the World's Fair.

Selected Public Collections
Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; DE
Detroit Institute of Art, MI
the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY
Museum of Modern Art, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

Monday, January 14, 2019

Commemorating the Life of Irwin Hollander, Master Printer

To start off 2019, I decided to recognize the achievements of Irwin Hollander, who died on Nov. 16, 2018, in Brooklyn. He was 90. Like the rest of us inked up brethren Hollander was a printmaker, but he decided early on in his career to become a Master Printer. For those uninitiated, a Master Printer is a person who is trained in all manner of printmaking technical skills. He/she then goes on to run a printmaking workshop, or contract independently with other print shops to print images for other artists who are not printmakers. That type of business has been around for a few hundred years, and has permitted artists in other media the opportunity to make original printed editions. Hollander worked with some of the best artists of the 20th century, and he devotedly taught printmaking in his later years. The man’s contributions to the medium are noteworthy so I wanted to share a little of the life and the prints he printed for other artists….

Hollander started out as an artist who developed a reputation as a commercial master printer. He was an important part of the revival of fine art printing in the 1960s that became popular in the United States. He often said that his main goal was “to serve artists.”

Irwin Hollander was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1927 to Henry and Ida (Burak) Hollander. His father was a taxi driver, and his mother worked in the garment industry. The family eventually moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Hollander dropped out of school at 14 but he later attended the School of Industrial Art, (now the High School of Art and Design), and studied fashion illustration, life drawing and photography at Washington Irving High School. By 1945 he was taking photographs for advertisements at R. H. Macy’s.

Hollander’s artistic training assisted him in the Army in 1946, while he served in Guam with a photography technical unit. After leaving the Army, he attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School, the Esmeralda National School of Painting, Sculpture and Printmaking in Mexico City, and the Art Students League in New York City.

In 1955, he married Nina Serser, a social worker. They moved to California, settling in San Diego where Hollander worked for a commercial printing company and fell in with the city’s art scene. The company agreed to let him use their equipment at night to work with artists.

That year, Hollander became acquainted with June Wayne, whose newly opened Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles would play a major role in introducing American artists to printmaking, and in training master printers. Within a year he was the first master printer trained at Tamarind.

In 1964, he returned to New York and opened a print workshop in a studio that had been vacated by Philip Pavia. Hollander later rented the first floor of the building as a display area and gallery. The first print his workshop published was by Leonard Baskin. Later on he developed a partnership with Fred Genis, a Dutch master printer.

He was best known for working with Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, convincing them that their gestural style would adapt well to printmaking. Hollander’s workshop also published portfolios and prints by Pierre Alechinsky, John Cage, Jim Dine, Sam Francis, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Lindner James MacGarrell, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg and Saul Steinberg.

After he closed Hollander’s Workshop in 1972, he taught printmaking at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He later moved to Wells Bridge, NY, and spent the rest of his career on his own art. Rest In Peace…..