Friday, May 15, 2009

OK, print it! Tonight! Temecula! (And we're not talking "reproduction" either)

I found this announcement at Inland Empire News.

San Diego and North County Printmakers

Exhibit: May 15 - June 29, 2009

FREE Opening Reception: Friday, May 15, 2009
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

@ The Gallery at The Merc
42051 Main Street, Temecula, CA 92590

Printmaking is an ancient process and has at times been called the "Democratic Art." In America during the end of the 19th century printmaking emerged as a method of making images that were affordable and could be distributed to a large audience. Etching, woodblock printing and the newcomer lithography were among the most popular techniques. Clubs were formed and patrons could subscribe for a modest fee and receive prints by their favorite painters and sculptors.

Printmaking eventually became a specialty and today there are many artists dedicated to only making prints. Printmaking is now valued as an artistic medium with unique qualities competing with other media. To make a print, the artist typically creates an image on a flat surface of metal, stone, wood, or other materials; the surface is then inked, and pressed onto paper to create an original print. By repeating the printing process, the artist is able to create multiple "original" works of art. The number of works made is determined by the artist and indicated as a "limited edition." The edition size is often expressed as a fraction e.g. 12/100; indicating the twelfth print of one hundred.

The San Diego & North County Printmakers can be contacted at:
The Art Campus at Fallbrook
310 E. Alvarado, Fallbrook, CA, 92028

Now I could have left off right there by reprinting the press release and leaving it at that, but I recently read something by Duncan Riley that took journalists to task for doing that very thing. And frankly, I've been guilty of doing the same thing at times. So now, I'm going to use my journalistic skills, acquired at the Reed College Quest, to probe into the controversial world of printmaking.

But I'll still take the lazy way out by following up on the web link provided in the press release itself. And it turns out there is a bit of controversy - just mention the word reproduction:

There is much confusion over the difference between hand-pulled original prints and limited edition reproductions because the latter are often advertised and sold as "limited edition prints."

An original print is an image created by an artist from a plate, stone, block, or screen. The unique qualities of each process determine which medium is chosen. Prints are numbered and signed in pencil by the artist beneath the image, after the edition is printed. Editions are usually limited to less than 200 images, often as few as 10 or 15. After the specified number of prints, including one of two called "artist's proofs," the block or plate is destroyed.

A reproduction is a copy of an original painting, drawing, etc. The original work is photographed and reproduced by an offset printing process, sometimes in an "edition" of 1000 or more images. The artist may not be involved in the printing process at all.

Because reproductions are all made by the same printing technique, they have a certain textural uniformity. Original prints, on the other hand, vary considerably depending on the process and the type of paper used. Many printmakers make their own paper, giving their work a quality that cannot be duplicated.

Reproductions can and do bring beauty into many homes and offices, but they do not have the distinction and hands-on quality of original prints. The difference is that indefinable quality between the work of a craftsperson and something mass-produced. The problem is that reproductions are sometimes numbered and signed in the same manner as original prints and then marketed and sold as "limited edition fine art prints." Consumers are thus led to believe they are purchasing an original piece of fine art.

Also check out (and no, that's not an oxymoron).

The commercialization of the art business by big business is no more evident anywhere than in the marketing of reproduction prints, primarily giclees, by entities billing themselves as fine art publishing houses. Many of these prints are advertised as signed, limited editions and sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The great majority, however, are nothing more than scans or copies of paintings, watercolors, or original works of art in other mediums. The only thing original about them are the signatures which take the artists maybe several seconds to apply at most. Now that's worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, right?

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