Nowadays you can find all manner of layered imagery with digital art-making methods so accessible. But have you ever wondered how artists used to achieve these effects with just their hands and mechanical printing processes? Wonderful illusions, juxtapositions and multifaceted alternate realities are born out of the mixed-media approach, leaving us with dazzling effects to peruse and no dot lost in translation.
Rauschenberg is a prolific example of this, often using so many different methods that it’s difficult to distinguish just how he assembled an image — and this is part of what makes his work so compelling. Newspaper cuttings, brushwork, handwriting, brown paper, maps, masking tape, a motley crew of letterpress type and xeroxed transparencies are amongst just a few of the elements he enlisted to create his undeniably powerful pieces. When it’s all nailed in place by means of an offset lithograph print as it’s final incantation, the magic gets transferred and the comparison against digital printing is inarguable.
"Wonderful illusions, juxtapositions and multifaceted alternate realities are born out of the mixed-media approach, leaving us with dazzling effects to peruse and no dot lost in translation."
Although Christo is well known for his work wrapping islands, buildings, trees and even people, it is easy to see this artist’s wonderfully complex mind at work in his concept drawings on paper. Wrapped Building Times Square is a luminous piece where Christo has taken a lithograph print of his original charcoal, graphite and colored pencil drawing, and then created cut-outs, sewn fabric in with thread and finally drawn on top as well. The result a spectacle in and of itself.
And it’s difficult to appreciate the textures and colors from Copper by Michael Clark until you get up close. This unique piece from 1989-1990 is rich with nuance while still waving the bold pop art flag — it boasts layers of spray paint, hand-painted dots and varying amounts of metallic sheen, with the color spilling all the way to the raw edge of its watermarked Arches paper.