I started writing about myself and ended up writing about prints. I have spent over a decade as a print dealer. My skills are wholly related to my passion for the work. I am not a printmaker. I have neither the patience or ingenuity to be a print maker and collaborator the way the master printers I know are. I am able to see the depth of the work that has gone into a print by looking at it. I can see the way things are made often but not always. I marvel at works on paper.
Prints are their own world within the art world. They are taught at art schools, curated by their own Curators in museums and sold at Print fairs. They live in a ghetto of their own making within contemporary art. Editions in photography and sculpture are commonplace yet have split off from the world of print editions.
Have you ever looked at these things as an artist would? Had you considered what it means to choose an image that will exist in the world 20 or 50 or 100 times. This piece that will represent your work to collectors and museums and will get seen that many more times often than a unique work? Had you considered the incremental nature of the financial support an artist receives from selling a few editions every year? Where does the humble but no less relevant print fit in their practice, their studio budget and their future progress?
As I mentioned, I believe printmakers are patient and ingenious people, capable of building castles out of sand. Have you ever looked at their technical construction and considered the time and effort to make them? Every master printer I know is patient and open to collaboration. Some are more boastful and some are egoless. Artists become celebrities and now dealers become celebrities but printmakers will always remain behind the scenes.
I am a collector of prints. If I had great gobs of money I would still collect prints. I have works I bought for a few hundred dollars that I couldn’t imagine parting with. There are prints that I have long coveted that I think about, dream about and long for in a real way. All of it is some form of paper with something on it, or occasionally in it, but it is always that thing.
And if you’ve stuck with me this long (today or reading Atlas in general) you know that I’m aware that these are just things. These pieces of paper are valuable to a few people for various reasons but they remain paper that has been given a great life as an object of beauty. Sometimes the object is so beautiful because it is ugly and full of the wrong type of marks or difficult images. I honor these works daily. I get teary eyed thinking of the faded prints my grandparents spent a disproportionate amount of their income on in the 60’s and 70’s. Vasarely and Calder prints that were made by the thousands and furnished the Florida bungalows and Forest Hills apartments of retirees for decades. Their stories, sometimes written and printed on cardboard frame backing, discarded on the floor of some frame shop or auction house or worse yet, insurance company warehouse after the hurricane. I hang two unsigned Miro reproductions in my home, mats slightly moldy, wood veneer frames on the verge of splitting hung by frayed wire because my Grandfather framed them with own his hands.
There are no right prints or wrong prints. There are expensive prints and cheap prints. And believe it or not, great prints can be cheap.