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The Silkscreen Medium


ARTWISE  EDITORIAL
SEPTEMBER 6, 2017 
  

Many people know about Silkscreen printing, also called Serigraph, from its widespread use in popular culture, but they may not realize this medium is one of the oldest, time-tested printing techniques. Originating in ancient China during the Song Dynasty years of 960–1279 AD, silk fabric was used as a strong, fine-grain mesh to press ink through in what resulted in a very even tone of color across a large surface. Over the course of its evolution through time this simple premise carried across many cultures and art movements, accessible to many more people due to being free of the need for heavy equipment or facilities.

Andy Warhol and his assistant Gérard Malanga. Photo source: collectiftextile.com

Undoubtedly popularized by Andy Warhol in the 1960s pop culture scene in New York City, silkscreening has become a favorite image-making method, proving to carry the dynamism and inventiveness of some of our greatest modern artists.

Guggenheim Museum is a classic Lichtenstein piece with his infamous dots, an original edition silkscreen he designed for his first solo exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York in 1969. As a major innovator and trailblazer of the pop art movement alongside Warhol, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist and others, Lichtenstein’s work often shows the prolific combination of fine art proficiency mixed with everyday art vitality.

Roy Lichtenstein, Guggenheim Museum, 1969 Serigraph

In a tall and monumental signed piece created by Josef Albers in 1972 for The 10th New York Film Festival, the abstract geometric drawing is sharply rendered, crisp and clean, but with a matte-finish ink that gives it a rich, warm sensation. The thick paper and incising blue silkscreen ink chosen are lush as well, giving the piece a gorgeous presence. Albers was known for his Interaction of Color which he published in 1963, where he presented his theory that colors were governed by an internal and deceptive logic, the very rare first edition of which has a limited printing of only 2,000 copies and contained 150 silkscreen plates. The vibrancy of silkscreen inks was something that lent itself well to his obsessions with color, and this NY Film Festival print is no exception.

Josef Albers, The 10th New York Film Festival, 1972 Serigraph, SIGNED
No Glove, No Love is a crackling signed piece made in 1988 by Ronnie Cutrone, an artist known for his large-scale paintings of some of America's favorite cartoon characters like Felix the Cat, Pink Panther and Woody Woodpecker. He was also a long-time artist assistant to Andy Warhol where he was often asked to make unusual and highly personal contributions to some of Warhol’s canvases. As one of the torch-bearers for the pop art movement, he was unafraid of the brassiness of vibrant color or low-brow imagery. "Everything is a cartoon for me. The ancient manuscripts are taken very seriously but they really are cartoons."
Ronnie Cutrone, No Glove, No Love, 1988 Serigraph, SIGNED
And for the highly regarded Lincoln Center Poster Program, a signed silkscreen by Jennifer Bartlett from 1981 brushes on the depth and breadth of creativity involved within this grand cultural institution. The silkscreen medium singularly allowed Bartlett to combine such different rendering styles into one image while maintaining the strength of a single print expression. It is bright and delicate, complex and mysterious. Silkscreen easily proves itself indispensable in connecting an artist’s vision to a great range of viewers, and translating a sophisticated, multi-layered inspiration with due energy.
Jennifer Bartlett, Chamber Music of Lincoln Center, 1981 Serigraph, SIGNED

Editor's Picks

Robert Motherwell-Mostly Mozart Festival

1991 Serigraph

Jacob Lawrence-Floral Supermarket

1996 Serigraph

Roy Lichtenstein-Big Painting #6

2000 Serigraph

Vija Celmins-Spider Web

2009 Serigraph SIGNED