Editions & Acquisitions 2011

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© Courtesy of the Artists and Alan Cristea Gallery
Editions & Acquisitions 2011

31 Cork Street
London W1S 3NU
United Kingdom
November 17th, 2011 - January 14th, 2012

+44 020 7734 4800
Mon-Fri 10-5:30; Sat 11-2
prints, photography, sculpture


Although best known for his monumental steel sculptures, Richard Serra is also a prolific and innovative printmaker. Ballast I follows the Arc of the Curve series made in California. The process of this series, ultimately realised as etchings, utilised numerous techniques in their development. The images were developed from Serra's initial drawings into screenprints. The next step was the need to create an organic, overall texture for the surface. This texture was created by applying lithographic rubbing ink onto a sheet of frosted Mylar that had been taped to an exterior stucco wall of the printing studio. The screenprints and texture sheet were photo-transferred to the copper etching plate, which was then placed into a custom-made acid tank, where they remained for several days before being ready to print.

Much of Edmund de Waal's work is about the grammar of the singular form. the language of ornament alludes to Minimalist repetition of singular forms. The design for the Ming bowl used here began as a lotus leaf which, over time, became completely stylised. This abstraction, simplification and repetition of form is something that happens throughout history, not just in Minimalism, and the language of ornament sets up this debate with a stack of repeated, minimal forms from the Ming Dynasty balanced on a minimal Judd-like shelf.

My Marilyn is based on photographs of Marilyn Monroe that Richard Hamilton saw in an article in Town magazine in November 1962, not long after her death in August of that year. The colours that Hamilton chose for this series were evocative of the colour spectrum of cosmetics and beauty products and, coincidentally, are suggestive of the palette de Kooning used in his Women pictures in the 1950s. By choosing the title My Marilyn Hamilton was referring to the abundance of images of Monroe.

The ultimate source for Richard Hamilton's I'm dreaming of a White Christmas was a colour negative frame cut from the scene in the film White Christmas, showing Bing Crosby walking through a hotel lobby. Beginning in 1967 Richard Hamilton explored the theme in two earlier prints and a painting, all of which mimicked the colour reversal of the original. Shortly after making the print, Hamilton wrote that it was 'a return of the subject to positive. When the major piece of the group (a large painting) was completed I had it photographed and from that large sized transparency a colour negative was made with some difficulty. The painting itself is in negative colour so a negative of the painting becomes positive. This positive/negative has been printed, by collotype, to the same size as the silkscreen print of the subject with many silkscreen workings on top in simulation of graphic manipulation.'

Mimmo Paladino's compendium of motifs - flora, fauna, and domestic objects together with his signature depiction of a vulnerable human face will fill his works regardless of the medium. These motifs speak of the unchanging nature of human values and emotions and of the continuum of the past into the present.

Jim Dine's first representations of the Venus de Milo include a group of sculptures made in 1982-3, for which he took plaster casts that he had bought in art supply stores as a starting point for his reinvention of this icon of feminine beauty. He began by cutting off her head as a way of rendering her his own, making her the female equivalent to the male robe motif he has been using as a subject for nearly 20 years. While still immediately recognisable from her stance and proportions, by this violent and elemental act she was transformed from a specific if imaginary female to a sign for all womanhood. By 1985 he had made 23 prints on the subject, compelling evidence of the immediate hold it exercised on his imagination.

Botanical forms can be found in Jim Dine's work as early as 1960, when he collaged photographic illustrations from seed packets with lithographs, but it was only when he began drawing from life in the mid-1970s that he also began to draw flowers and plants.

Gordon Cheung's Still Life with Tulips on Orange re-interprets the canons of 17th Century European still life painting, which emerged in parallel with the rise of capitalism. The tulip is a recurring motif of the golden age of Dutch Vanitas. It also refers to an early example of a speculative bubble, when in 1636 - 1637 in the Netherlands, the frantic demand for tulip bulbs boosted prices to extremely high levels before suddenly collapsing.

Safety Last is the first set of etchings ever produced by Catherine Yass and is the result of her third collaboration with the gallery. This group of eight prints takes as its starting point stills from Safety Last!, the iconic 1923 silent comedy directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and starring Harold Lloyd at the apex of his career. The film culminates with the hero, hanging from a giant clock at the top of a skyscraper, pulling the clock hands downwards and forcibly reversing time. With Safety Last, Yass pursues her experimentation with methods of processing film, considering how time and damage affect the cellulose negative. In making the prints, she scratched the surface of the film itself, a way of working which recalls the etching of a plate and highlights parallels between lens-based media (such as photography or film-making) and etching, as forms of image-making.

Craig-Martin's drawings eschew the archetypal perception of the ‘spontaneous study', hand-drawn with graphite or inked by hand. His are complete and entirely resolved, often existing in large groups, created for their own sake and not necessarily in anticipation of a tangible object. Some are vehicles for the outpouring of ideas and others are proposals for works never or yet to be made. As with his treatment of everyday objects, these drawings are meticulously distilled and deceptively complex. The drawings are made using a crepe tape which was invented in the 1960s for drawing electronic circuitry and which allows for both straight and curved lines. The tape makes a line like a pen, but it's material. For Craig-Martin, drawing using this tape seemed to be a way of making drawings in a particularly sculptural way, where the drawing is physical, not just a mark or stain, but a hard material, so that the drawing itself becomes a construction.

Picasso had made surprisingly few lithographs before 1945, some twenty-five to thirty, the last of which was printed in 1930. This fifteen year interval was brought to an end by Picasso's introduction to the printer, Fernand Mourlot, after the Second World War, and the meeting led to the artist's most prolific period of activity in the medium. The most concentrated burst of activity comes in the following year when, for months on end, he devoted his attention entirely to his muse, Françoise Gilot. The prop that he chose to use was a Polish coat, whose voluminous sleeves serve to swell the physique of his mistress as she commands our attention with a direct stare at both artist and viewer.

From a series of eight portraits published earlier this year, Maria 2 and Ika 1 take 18th Century portraiture as their reference point. Having recently incorporated ever more detail into his portraits, with this series Opie investigates eliminating much of the information whilst keeping the overall format of the classical portrait. The costumes and props and poses are elaborate enough to allow the face itself, usually thought to be the focus of a portrait, to remain blank.

Le Matador demonstrates Miró's innovative attitude towards printmaking, with his use of what was then a new material, carborundum. Carborundum is the common household name for silicon carbide. Traditionally used by printers to grind down lithographic stones, it can also be used as part of the creative printmaking process. By grinding the carborundum into a course or a fine powder and mixing with a PVA glue, the artist can create a malleable paste which can be literally painted onto a printing plate (usually perspex rather than metal). This then dries into a hard, relief surface which can be inked in multiple colours, the carborundum, being granular, absorbs dense quantities of ink. When dampened paper is place on top of the worked plate and both are put through an etching press, the ink is transferred and the relief areas emboss the paper surface. The resulting printed areas are heavily textured and retain the painterly nature of the original application.

Printmaking came in sporadic bursts through Matisse's career, at different times in his life he became completely absorbed by one method or another. His first involvement with lithography came in 1914 and by 1930 he was fully committed to the medium. Jeune Fille assise au Bouquet de Fleurs introduces more elaboration and detail than in many of his prints made around this time, yet the decorative aspects of the composition have been achieved with an economical deftness of touch.

Marie Harnett makes series of highly detailed, minuscule drawings, derived from film stills, which capture fleeting moments of drama, suspense or beauty. Having experimented with making her own films at art school, she began drawing from selected stills. Her process requires her to watch film trailers online without sound or colour, frame by frame, until she sees something that inspires her. She rarely watches the film in its entirety, and doesn't follow the plot, preferring instead to reinvent her own story for the characters she draws.