Saturday, April 23, 2011

Major glassprint show in San Francisco

Practitioners of the ancient arcane art of glassprints, or clichés-verre, can emerge from their darkrooms, squint and celebrate: a significant show of a spectrum of work in this technique has been mounted by the Jenkins Johnson Gallery of San Francisco.  Entitled "Cliché-Verre in the Digital Age" perhaps to dramatize how long it's been since the last such show, it features work by an international cast whose best-known member, to a New York audience, must be Abelardo Morell (see earlier blog post), but there are other fine contributions as well.  Here are three of them:
David Symons, 2009



Fredrik Marsh, 2000-2011


Suzanne Izzo, 2004

In New York we get a smattering of glassprint shows but no one talks about them much.  An exhibit of the Barbizon school clichés at the Peter Freeman, or a show on Roger Catherineau at the Gitterman, Corot and Millet at the Public Library, a few pictures by Man Ray at the Jewish, the annual class show of glassprints at the Manhattan Graphics Center - that's about it unless you expand the definition of what constitutes a glassprint.  Oh, and the Morells at the Benrubi.

With a show like this, much as it's belated and welcomed, one can easily overlook the fact that many artists not normally considered glassprinters (in fact not ever) but instead mere painters (though of some international stature) may glibly draw from the long history of glassprint methods to create works which the art press will later go on to identify as 'hybrid' or 'mixed media'.  Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Wolfgang Tillmans come immediately to mind, big names all; there are many others.  Just yesterday I saw an Anselm Kiefer at the Morgan Library that will blow your mind, but no mention of glassprint - yet it was.  The present group seems motivated by quite different concerns however, one of the main being their allegiance to photographic process not only as starting point but as the platform on which their final efforts are meant to be judged, and for that they signal by waving the cliché-verre flag.  They're not addressing the history of art with these works, generally: they've given that up, or maybe were never interested in that to begin with.  Maybe they're 'just photographers', whose conversation runs to filters and hydroquinone when they get together.  So soon we start asking how this or that picture is made, what are the steps, the conceits, the tricky sub rosa moves.  In addition to admiring, often - and we can't help ourselves - the arresting visual results.

For those unfamiliar with the scope of glassprint methods this show is a good place to learn, because it illustrates a broad range of technique, and because it's hard for the uninitiated to understand what you can achieve with just photo paper, developer, fixer, and a few household items (for the most part).  Schoolchildren should go - tell your teachers! - as should artists, scientists, collectors (never forget them) and the general public.  Once the surprise wears off, which could take generations, we can get down to accepting glassprint methods in a general approach to art.

Other exhibiting artists not mentioned above include Jo Bradford, Peter Feldstein, Maggie Foskett, Fred Parker, Frank Rossi, Käthe Wenzel and most especially Courtney Johnson, for bringing this show into being.  It runs from April 7 to May 3, 2011.

1 comment:

  1. You can run workshops using sun fix paper, felt tip pens and acetate paper. Simply draw on to the acetate, place on top of the photopaper, expose it to the sun, and develop in water. The prints are blue...

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