|Turnbull, untitled chemigram with additions #1, 2011-15|
We've talked a lot about living prints - lumens, pinholes, mordançages, chemigrams - but let's talk now about death and about prints that no longer breathe.
What are dead prints? We've all seen them, we'd be lying to say we haven't. A dead print is one that is damaged beyond repair, either by something the artist did herself in creating it - an experiment gone awry, an idea that didn't pan out, a flat-out screw-up - or by an extrinsic act. Take your pick of these: maybe someone spilled coffee on it, or ripped it accidentally, or got it caught in a door, or they drove a spike through it. Whatever the case, these prints are off life support. In the trade (you may have encountered this), dead prints are also known as zombie prints, because in art nothing ever really dies, though there is little argument there are times when it should.
This raises the question, what do you do with them? You can't get rid of them, after all they're zombies. They will pile up and crowd around you and haunt you forever. They will never let you forget them. To provide an answer, Rich Turnbull has invoked the notion of the Lazarus print, a sort of antidote to the zombie print. The Lazarus print, like its namesake, is a kind of do-over, a second chance, or what I believe they call in golf a mulligan. Here's how it works. You take the zombie, lay it on the table, stare real hard at it, and then start drawing on it. Simple as that. You are breathing life into it as you draw. Soon, the print stirs and awakens. It lives.
|Turnbull, untitled chemigram with additions #2, 2011-15|
Another tip, don't limit yourself to drawing. Consider painting, spraying, tearing, collaging, fouling, burning or any activity that comes to mind: nothing is illegal, feel free as a child. Each activity is as powerful as another in restoring life. It was after four days that Jesus, in the Book of John, brought Lazarus back from the dead. He used faith. Rich used marker pens after four years. Each is effective.
The critical reader may have noticed that the same errant tool that 'accidentally' led to the zombification of the print earlier may equally, and paradoxically, lead to its restoration as a Lazarus today. This is true, and is one of the great paradoxes of art.
|Turnbull, untitled chemigram with additions #3, 2010-15|
Another may ask, is this the same thing as hybrid art, where different artistic approaches are combined in a single work? Well, yes and no. Often it's a matter of intention versus nonchalance or desperation. The results may look the same but it's really all about how you get there, and what you learn along the way. Here's a well-known Saul Steinberg photograph/drawing hybrid recently shown at the Pace Gallery in New York:
|Steinberg, Girl in Bathtub, 1949|
|Cordier, 6/7/81 III, Homage to Robert Capa, 1981|
To qualify properly as a Lazarus print a work must have been judged dead by its creator before the Lazarus intervention, and neither the Steinberg nor the Cordier come close to that - happily for us. Yes, there is an element of devil-may-care desperation in the Lazarus project. When it succeeds, though, it is all the more wonderful for it. Turnbull's recent trio of works clinches the case.