Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.
Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-1.
James Turrell’s installations – sky drawings, light projections, and “skyspaces” – are artworks made for both nature lovers and stargazers. A key member of Southern California’s Light and Space movement, Turrell began his artistic career in sunny Los Angeles in the 1960s and continues to explore the experiential qualities of light to this day. Turrell’s work is currently on view in several major museums throughout the country this summer – the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston,and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolioDeep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-2.
Influenced by his studies in perceptual psychology as well as his Quaker faith, Turrell illuminates light’s natural and supernatural qualities. His work consists of light projections in interior spaces, architectural manipulations such as cutting a hole in a structure’s ceiling to allow natural light to seep into a room, or even a naked-eye observatory created out of an extinct volcano in the Arizona desert (as in Roden Crater,begun 1977). However, not all of his work is so ethereal or monumental. In the SCMA collection, his first print portfolio Deep Sky(1985) translates the experience of light into two dimensions, bringing a new level of tangibility to his work.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-3.
The seven prints in Deep Skyseem to undulate between renderings of natural landscapes and abstractions of pure light and shadow. While the first print in the portfolio (top) resembles the silhouette of a volcano below a vast night sky dotted with stars, each of the subsequent five prints takes a sharp turn toward the abstract. Turrell gives us suspended shapes which evoke rays of light cutting through complete darkness, combined in ways which defy concrete understanding. Perhaps these images are loosely related to the volcanic site of Roden Craterand its light-filled spaces which Turrell was still in the process of creating in 1985. What ultimately ties the images together is the subtle presence of tiny stars in each print. These images simultaneously resemble scientific renderings of such abstract visual phenomena in Turrell’s gallery pieces as well as evoke the awe-inspiring experience of observing the night sky in a vast, open landscape.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-4.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-5.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-6.
The final print in the Deep Skyportfolio (below) is an almost equally ambiguous image of what appears to be some sort of land surface set against that same dark sky with a bright white orb shape in the bottom right corner. It is unclear whether this image is meant to be the same desert environment viewers may associate with Turrell’s Roden Crateror whether this is some imaginary celestial body. This elusiveness is exactly what makes Turrell’s Deep Skyprints so intriguing and captivating.
James Turrell. American, born 1943. Untitledfrom the portfolio Deep Sky,1985. Aquatint printed in black on BFK Rives paper. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 1985:17-7.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
“I’m full of thoughts (more or less). My work isn’t.
It’s not a demonstration of an idea either. It’s an actuality.”
– Fred Sandback
Minimalist artist Fred Sandback is known for his ephemeral sculptures made from acrylic yarn. The taut yarn strings – often stretching from floor to ceiling, ceiling to wall, or wall to floor – create delicate and playful forms that change the way a viewer sees, perceives, and moves about the space. Sandback’s yarn constructions are essentially drawings in space – free-floating lines which have jumped beyond the confines of paper.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Sandback translated his spatial ideas from three to two dimensions using the visual and technical capabilities unique to printmaking. Apparent iterations of his sculptures, Sandback’s prints present floating lines which interact with the whole sheet of paper similarly to how his yarn lines interact with the space of an entire room. This can be seen in Sandback’s 1983 lithograph For Matthias Ignaz(made in honor of his then-newborn son), in which the artist printed the blue-green negative space right to the paper’s edge, leaving only the subtle white lines unprinted and exposed. This print confuses and challenges our notions of two-dimensional foreground and background. Here, both elements are of equal importance: the “space” of the paper’s colored expanse and the lithographic line.
While the large scale of Sanback’s yarn sculptures subtly alter or interrupt the viewers’ space, the comparatively miniscule size (11 by 9 inches) of For Matthias Ignazcreates an incredibly intimate relationship between the work and the viewer. Drawn into the paper’s peculiar blue-green “space,” close looking reveals that the lithographic lines are not entirely crisp – in fact, their fuzzy character curiously alludes to the tactile quality of his three-dimensional yarn lines.
Detail of Sandback’s For Matthias Ignazshowing lithographic line.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Guest blogger Emma Casey is a Smith College student, class of 2015, majoring in Spanish. She is the 2013-2015 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
This past spring, my advanced printmaking class took a field trip to Peter Pettengill’s professional intaglio workshop and publisher, Wingate Studio in southwestern New Hampshire (pictured above). Pettengill, Wingate’s founder and master printmaker, was trained at Crown Point Press in San Francisco from 1979 through 1985, at which point he opened Wingate. He gave us a tour of his studio and showed us works by various artists made prints at Wingate over the past few years.
The work of contemporary American artist Walton Ford drew my attention. Ford works in the style of 19th century naturalist artists, namely ornithologist John James Audubon, to create naturalistic illustrations, paintings, and prints of avifauna (birds). From afar, Ford’s works appear strictly observational, but upon closer scrutiny, many levels of narrative and socio-historical critique become evident. Each avifauna subject is depicted life-sized, and is often accompanied by text. Ford’s backgrounds have a sketchy, less defined quality, and stain-like splotches appear on the borders in a faux antique style.
The ambition of his prints is remarkable. The hours involved in etching six tightly-registered copper intaglio plates for each print shows in the precision and skill of his works. Ford’s beautifully executed prints and watercolors critique human actions and history. Drawing from colonialism, industrialization and environmentalism, Ford questions the effects of these phenomena on the animal world through both serious and joking imagery.
Ford’s Condemned,a print in the SCMA collection, depicts an extinct Carolina Parakeet. By the 1880s, the birds’ numbers suffered at the hands of farmers who considered them an agricultural pest. Flocks plagued orchards, destroying fruit in search of seeds. The American Ornithologists Union declared the Parakeet extinct in 1939. Ford has memorialized the small bird, including its scientific name. Condemnedincorporates a quote from the American serial killer Carl Panzram (1891-1930), who wrote to capital punishment protesters while on death row in 1929, “I wish that you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it.” Ford appropriates this quote, which is prominently scrawled above the Carolina Parakeet. It is ambiguous whether these words are the voice of a farmer or one of the birds; as each is ruining the other’s life, but with different consequences of varying severity.