We are excited to announce our new summer show, Monotypes, which will open on July 17th with a nighttime reception at the gallery from 5-7pm. A monotype is the most painterly method of printmaking, created by manually adding ink onto a plate, which is then printed through a traditional press. While other printmaking mediums are composed by way of hard, precise lines and detailed crosshatching, the looseness and gestural freedom allowed in a monotype can be an invigorating breath of fresh air for artists. The prints chosen for the exhibit are glowing examples of this unbridled, and sometimes playful, independence from the technical, benefiting from the simple swipe of a brush stroke, the pooling and blending of inks, and the unique translucency and saturation of color. The show will remain on view through September 12, 2015. Selected Artists: Linda Adato, Leonard Baskin, Philip Bennet, Susan Goldman, Takamune Ishiguro, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio, Matt Phillips, Clare Romano, Peri Schwartz, Bruce Waldman, Steven Walker, and Janet Yake. We will share more with our OPG Blog readers and followers as the show takes form, so make sure to check back for updates!
The Old Print Gallery is proud to announce its new fall print show, Ink & Grain, which will open on Friday, September 19, 2014 with a free opening night reception from 5-8pm at the gallery. Ink & Grain is a group show, highlighting 20th century printmakers who excelled in woodcuts and wood engravings. The exhibit will remain on view at the Old Print Gallery until November 15th, 2014.
One of the most ancient forms of printmaking, the woodcut was in huge decline in the 19th century, as printmakers turned to other forms of reproductive mediums. Luckily, the 20th century saw a revived and energized artistic expression for woodcuts and wood engravings. These new woodcut artists experimented heavily with technique, in ways both innovative and nuanced. Printmakers, like Werner Drewes and Barbara Latham, incorporated the grain of the woodblock directly into the composition of their prints- surrendering to its complexities while highlighting its unique, undulating patterns. Others, including Gustave Baumann, Leo Frank, Norma Bassset Hall, and Luigi Rist, experimented with new methods of ink and color application, resulting in stylized prints in a bold, modern palate, as well as softer, luminous color prints inked onto thin Japanese paper.
Wood engravings also saw a resurgence during the 20th century, especially in the form of artist’s hand-made books and commercial book illustrations. The show includes works by skilled wood engravers Clare Leighton, Lawrence N. Wilbur, and John Murphy, all who made a name for themselves as dynamic illustrators and artists.
Selected Artists: Gustave Baumann, Asa Cheffetz, Werner Drewes, Leo Frank, Antonio Frasconi, Eliza Draper Gardiner, Norma Bassett Hall, Barbara Latham, Clare Leighton, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio, John J. A. Murphy, Luigi Rist, Mabel Royds, Charles Svendsen, Paul Wenck, Lawrence N. Wilbur, and Adja Yunkers.
Today we have two beautiful nude prints, one by contemporary Bill Murphy and the other by 20th century painter and printmaker Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Followers of the OPG Blog are already familiar with Alessandro Mastro-Valerio (we have featured his prints here, here, and here), but this is the first time we have showcased work by Bill Murphy.
Murphy was born in Staten Island in 1952. He studied at The School of Visual Arts, The Art Students League, Pratt Graphic Center, and received an MFA from Vermont College. He holds the rank of Professor of Visual Arts at Wagner College, Staten Island where he has taught since 1983. Murphy is a member of Audubon Artists, Print Club of Albany, and the Society of American Graphic Artists (SAGA).
A particularly poignant line from Murphy’s artist statement is a great illumination of what makes his prints so successful: “The aspect of picture-making which intrigues me the most is at the point where luck and intention meet – the crisscrossing of fate and accident on the way to finding a picture.” His nude lithograph is a perfect visual testament to his instinctive and liberated method; it is a very subtle print- not overworked or exhaustive in its line work. Similarly, Mastro-Valerio’s nude benefits from a softer and delicate touch. The sheets are a tumble of indistinguishable folds, and his use of line is sparse- with only subtle definitions to the curve of the hip, shoulders, and hands, leaving the face and background bathed in shadows.
We hope you enjoy these two beautiful prints!
Image on the Left: Repose. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1948. Edition of 20. Estate Signed. LINK.
Image on the Right: Reclining Nude. By Bill Murphy. Lithograph, 1988. Edition 10. Signed and titled in pencil. LINK.
Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A Retrospective opens this Friday, September 20th (come to our opening!) with over 25 original prints on the OPG walls. Although celebrated for his mezzotint nudes, Mastro-Valerio also experimented with etchings, wood engravings, and monotypes, before creating continuous and spit-bite aquatint abstractions in the final years before his death (1950-1952). Today on the OPG blog, we would like to explain the different mediums that Mastro-Valerio so artfully employed, using his prints to show the difference in styles. We hope you enjoy!
Etching has been a favorite technique for artists for centuries, largely because the method of inscribing the image is so similar to drawing with a pencil or pen. An etching begins with a metal plate that has been coated with a waxy substance called a “ground.” The artist creates a composition by drawing through the ground with a pointed stylus, to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which “bites” or chemically dissolves the metal in the exposed lines. For printing, the ground is removed, the plate is inked, and then the plate’s surface is wiped clean (leaving the ink only in the etched lines). It is then covered with a sheet of dampened paper and run through the printing press, which not only transfers the ink but forces the paper into the lines, resulting in a raised character of the lines on the impression. Etched lines usually have blunt rather than tapering lines.
Mezzotint is a technique of engraving areas of tone rather than lines. In this method, the entire surface of the printing plate is roughed by a spiked tool called a rocker. If inked at that point, the entire plate would print in solid black. The artist then works “from black to white” by scraping or burnishing areas so the plate will hold less or no ink, yielding modulated tones. Because of the capabilities for producing almost infinite gradations of tone, mezzotint has been the most successful technique for the black and white adaptation of oil-painted images to the print medium.
Wood engravings are made from the end-grain surface of very hard wood, usually boxwood, as opposed to woodcuts, which are made from side-grain planks of wood neither so hard nor so expensive. Rather than cutting away non-printing areas with a knife, wood engravings are made with fine engraving tools which are used to engrave the non-printing areas with incredible precision and detail. As in woodcuts, it is the surface that takes the ink and prints.
Aquatint is an etching process concerned with areas of tone rather that line. For this technique, the plate is covered with a ground or resin that is granular rather than solid (as in an etching) and bitten with acid. The acid bites in between the granules. The design, wholly in tonal areas not line, is produced by protecting certain areas of the plate from the acid with an impervious varnish, by using multiple bitings to produce different degrees of darkness, and by using several different resins with different grains.
If you have any questions about the techniques or want to share which medium is your favorite, feel free to leave a comment below!
Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A RetrospectiveOpening Night Reception
Friday, September 20th, from 5-8pm
At The Old Print Gallery
We invite you to join us for an evening of celebration, as we premiere our new fall show- an in-depth retrospective of 20th century printmaker Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Converse with others in the DC art scene while you enjoy an exclusive first-look at the show prints, as well as several of the artist’s original mezzotint printing plates.
Free wine and light refreshments will be served. No RSVP required, all ages welcome.