MADISON, Wis. – The Chazen Museum of Art celebrates the 50th anniversary of the annual Southern Graphics Council International conference, which will take place in Madison, Wisconsin, March 16-19, 2022, with two special exhibitions. Pressing Innovation: Printing Fine Art in the Upper Midwest, on view Feb. 14, 2022-May 15, 2022, will be the first to prioritize the combined history of fine art presses in the Upper Midwest region and will feature recent works that have not been widely exhibited or published until now. Seeing Audubon: Robert Havell, Jr. and the Birds of America at the Chazen from Dec. 20, 2021-April 3, 2022, reconsiders John James Audubon’s The Birds of America – one of the world’s preeminent records of natural history and one of the finest works of colored engraving with aquatint in existence – by examining the printmaker’s achievements.
“The Chazen Museum of Art is honored to partner with the University of Wisconsin and the Madison community in hosting SGCI’s golden anniversary,” said Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen. “For half a century this dynamic institution has been advancing creativity and collaboration to new heights. We look forward to showcasing some of the most inventive printmaking to celebrate their legacy.”
Pressing Innovation: Printing Fine Art in the Upper Midwest, will explore the histories, contributions and missions of five fine-art printing presses that were established in the region in the late 20th and early 21st centuries: Landfall Press (Chicago, Illinois), Vermillion Editions/Akasha Fine Art (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Island Press (St. Louis, Missouri), Tandem Press (Madison, Wisconsin) and Highpoint Center for Printmaking (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
The exhibition and related publication will emphasize the distinctiveness of each institution, while tracing the connections – a network of teachers and master printers – that link the presses in a variety of ways. It will also share how this group of presses broadens and enriches the understanding of American printmaking over the last 50 years.
The exhibition features a wide variety of printmaking techniques by a diverse community of artists, including Carlos Amorales, Garo Antreasian, Shusaku Arakawa, Lee R. Chesney, Jr., Robert Cottingham, Lesley Dill, Jeffrey Gibson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Julie Mehretu and Dario Robleto, among others. Many of these artists traveled from the East and West Coasts to make prints in the Midwest. Exhibition curator James Wehn, Van Vleck curator of works on paper at the Chazen, selected prints that not only embody the high level of invention and technical breakthroughs that resulted from each artist-press collaboration, but also highlight transformational moments in the development of the presses.
The Birds of America has engaged art historians, ornithologists and historians of science for nearly a century, but has not been considered through the lens of the master printer. The four-volume publication was printed in London between 1827 and 1838 by Robert Havell, Jr., who transformed Audubon’s original watercolor studies, made in situ during his travels throughout the eastern United States, into the masterpiece for which Audubon is known today. Borrowing methods developed for the printing of maps and microscopic illustrations, Havell Jr.’s innovations in engraving and aquatint allowed Audubon’s vision to become a reality. The exhibition challenges the perception of Audubon as a singular force, separate from the history and culture of printmaking, and suggests that some of the scientific nature that underlies the images was imparted by Havell Jr.’s technique.
Two of the four “double-elephant folios” (so-called for their unprecedented size), drawn from UW–Madison’s Special Collections’ Chester H. Thordarson Collection, will be on view at the Chazen. In addition, the exhibition will feature one of Audubon’s watercolor studies for Birds of America from the Chazen Museum of Art collection; examples of other prints published by the Havell family; and test prints made by UW–Madison Associate Professor of Art Emily Arthur, whose research is currently focused on reverse-engineering some of the complicated and enigmatic techniques that Havell, Jr., used within the publication.
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About the Chazen Museum of Art
The Chazen Museum of Art makes its home between two lakes on the beautiful campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Within walking distance of the state capitol, it sits squarely in the heart of a vibrant college town. The Chazen’s expansive two-building site holds the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin, and at 166,000 square feet, is the largest collecting museum in the Big 10. The collection of approximately 23,000 works of art covers diverse historical periods, cultures and geographic locations, from ancient Greece, Western Europe and the Soviet Empire to Moghul India, 18th-century Japan and modern Africa.
For more information: chazen.wisc.edu
Founded in 1972 by Boyd Saunders and a group of artist-educators who gathered in New Orleans, SGCI today includes over 1,000 members from around the world. Its annual gathering is the largest printmaking conference in North America. International members of SGCI regularly travel to the conference from Canada, South America, Central America and Europe. In 2022 SGCI celebrates 50 years of connecting artists, students, educators and professionals in the field of original prints, drawings, artist books and handmade paper.
For more information about the 2022 conference, please visit: