Opening Feb. 14 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art,
the exhibition coincides with the Southern Graphics Council International’s 50th Anniversary conference
MADISON, Wis. – Occasionally, in the late 20th century and early aughts, artists from the American coasts would make their way to the Midwest with a need: technique and craftsmanship to bring their work into vivid, sharp relief on the page.
They found it in collaborations with printmakers of the upper Midwest, a group of people contributing to American printmaking traditions in their own inventive workshops.
The histories of five important fine-art printing presses of the region will be explored in Pressing Innovation: Printing Fine Art in the Upper Midwest, on view Feb. 14-May 15, 2022 at the Chazen Museum of Art.
“It’s fascinating to discover the role these printing presses played in the wider American printmaking tradition,” said Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen. “We’re looking forward to showcasing the inventive printmaking of this region and to celebrating its legacy and contributions to art-making traditions.”
Pressing Innovation is one of two exhibitions the museum is hosting in honor of the 50th anniversary of the annual Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI), the largest printmaking conference in North America, taking place in Madison, Wis., Mar. 16-19, 2022. (The other exhibition, Seeing Audubon: Robert Havell, Jr. and the Birds of America, is at the Chazen through April 3, 2022.)
In Pressing Innovation, viewers will learn the distinct stories of fine-art printing presses established between 1970 and 2001: Landfall Press (Chicago, Ill.), Vermillion Editions Limited (Minneapolis, Minn.), Island Press (St. Louis, Mo.), Tandem Press (Madison, Wis.) and Highpoint Editions (Minneapolis, Minn.).
Their contributions reflect the efforts of a network of teachers and printers that helped elevate the standard of printmaking in the region. And it dives into how these five histories help broaden and enrich the understanding of American printmaking over the last 50 years.
The story is told through outstanding examples of printmaking. A diverse community of artists, with wide-ranging and vivid works, will be on view. They include “Rolling Stock Series No. 7, for Jim,” from 1992, printed by Tandem Press. Also on view is Mexican artist Carlos Amorales’s “Skeleton Images – Azar Compositions Duo, 2010,” engravings and relief prints in blue, red and black inks from the Highpoint Editions.
Exhibition curator James R. Wehn, PhD, 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 that also highlight transformational moments in the development of the presses.
“These printing presses deserve to be celebrated for their technical achievements,” Wehn said. “We’re able to see how inventive these presses were in their collaborations. It’s a privilege to tell the stories of these important players in American printmaking, and the exhibition is a delight precisely because of its range.”
Works by Christo, Red Grooms, Steven Sorman, Ann Hamilton, Alison Saar, Nick Cave, Shusaku Arakawa, Lesley Dill, Jeffrey Gibson, Julie Mehretu and Dario Robleto are also among the many on view. The range of styles, themes and imagery from the artists showcased in Pressing Innovation show the unique challenges of methods and materials tackled in every printing job.
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.