Pasadena, CA—The Norton Simon Museum presents Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California, an exhibition that explores the significance of printmaking and its new possibilities as first re-envisioned in Southern California in the mid-20th century. Drawing from the Museum’s extensive print collection and a few select loans, the exhibition includes approximately 125 prints, portfolios and multiples, including works by the local founders of the movement, such as John Altoon, Garo Antreasian, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Ed Moses, Ken Price, Ed Ruscha and June Wayne. Proof also includes works by a significant number of artists who traveled west to print specifically in Los Angeles, such as Josef Albers, Louise Nevelson, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg.
Printmaking had for centuries been explored by painters and sculptors alike—most notably Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and Pablo Picass0—but it was not embraced by the 20th-century American avant-garde, though there were a few exceptions. In 1960, Los Angeles– based artist June Wayne took it upon herself to “create a pool of master artisan-printers in the United States.” These words were spoken at the founding of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles by Wayne, who, through her dedication and hard work, created a workshop that would educate printers, artists, curators and collectors alike. Indeed, Tamarind sparked a renaissance in the graphic arts—a revival that spread well beyond Los Angeles and the medium of lithography. In the next few decades, all methods of printmaking would be established and legitimized as viable and valuable forms of art making.
Throughout the 1960s, Tamarind opened its doors to artists both experienced and inexperienced in printmaking. Many world-renowned painters and sculptors made the journey to Los Angeles to learn the craft at Tamarind. The artists’ two-month fellowships were staggered so that no two artists were new at the same time. Wayne established the editioning of prints so that twenty from each edition went to the artist, and nine went to Tamarind. In this way, the workshop was able to donate a complete set of every work it produced to nine public institutions, thereby spreading the knowledge of printmaking and building enthusiasm for the medium among curators and collectors. The Norton Simon Museum is home to a near-complete set of prints created at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, and Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California features nearly 70 of these works.
The artists represented range from John Altoon, Billy Al Bengston, Vija Celmins, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, David Hockney, Ed Moses, Lee Mullican, Louise Nevelson, Ed Ruscha, and Norman Zammitt, to June Wayne herself. In addition to works from Tamarind, the exhibition includes prints created at Gemini G.E.L., a lithography workshop established in Los Angeles in 1966 by master printer Ken Tyler and business partners Sidney Felsen and Stanley Grinstein. During its first decade, Gemini was known for working with East Coast–based artists, and the exhibition features works by Ellsworth Kelly, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella. Proof also features a select group of prints created at Cirrus Editions, which was founded in 1970 by Jean Milant after his nearly two-year tenure as a printer at Tamarind. Unlike Gemini, Cirrus focused on Los Angeles–based artists. In this exhibition, works by John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Charles Christopher Hill and Greg Card are featured. Finally, several important examples of early local etching, screenprinting and lithography are presented, including works from the 1920s through the 1950s by such artists as Clinton Adams, Leonard Edmondson, Ynez Johnston, Paul Landacre and Rico LeBrun. All of the artworks have been selected to illustrate the variety of materials employed by artists, including ink on paper, acetate and uncommon synthetics, as well as the variety of forms, including portfolios, photolithos and three-dimensional prints. Special attention has been given to both artists and printers.
Altogether, the artworks featured in Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California tell the fascinating but seldom-explored story of the renaissance of fine-art lithography in Los Angeles in the 20th century. Starting with small local efforts in the first half of the century, to June Wayne and the founding of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the 1960s, and on to the establishment of Gemini G.E.L. and Cirrus Editions in the mid-1960s and 1970s, printmaking became an essential medium in an artist’s oeuvre, and Los Angeles was the birthplace of this effort. What is more, the exhibition illustrates how some of the era’s most cutting-edge artists transformed the medium, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with their embrace of new materials and techniques.
Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California is curated by Leah Lehmbeck, Associate Curator at the Norton Simon Museum. The exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time, an unprecedented collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A art scene. Pacific Standard Time, an initiative of the Getty, will take place for six months beginning October 2011.
About the Publication
Accompanying the Proof exhibition is a publication of the same name. With essays by established print scholars as well as fresh, new voices on the subject, this lavishly illustrated catalogue introduces the pioneers of printmaking in Los Angeles who nurtured an environment suitable for the founding of
the country’s most significant print shop in 1960. By tracing the local printmaking communities, the academic establishment, as well as the significant influence of the Tamarind Lithography Workshop and other venerable workshops founded by Tamarind-trained printers, like Gemini G.E.L. and Cirrus Editions, the catalogue addresses the spectacularly rapid spread of printmaking from its modern beginnings in Southern California. Proof is the first catalogue to discuss Los Angeles printmaking within the larger narrative of postwar American art.
About “The Original Print,” a companion exhibition
In conjunction with Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California, the Museum presents The Original Print, an exhibition that looks at the technical aspects of printmaking. Held in the small, rotating gallery on the Museum’s main level, the exhibition combines explanatory texts, archival documentation, photographs, video footage and the actual implements of printmaking (a woodblock, an etching plate, a lithography stone and a screen). A select group of prints on view serves to illustrate these concepts directly, in an effort to familiarize visitors with the methods and terminology used to describe the graphic arts.