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MoMA

READING PRINT/OUT: 20 YEARS IN PRINT

May 3, 2012  |  Print/Out, Publications
Reading Print/Out: 20 Years in Print

Front Cover of Print/Out: 20 Years in Print (MoMA, 2012)

Reading Print/Out: 20 Years in Print is a bit like browsing the Internet while strolling through a crowded urban intersection, overhearing many conversations at once and witnessing the same (but different) red stop sign again, on the next corner, repeatedly. The catalogue, which accompanies Print/Out, MoMA’s third major print survey exhibition since 1980, offers a new language of the edition, now broken apart and reminiscent of the exploded serial dynamic that I experience during online interactions. When we respond to one another with images and comments, each successive response renews my experience of that image.

In the catalogue, focused monographic sections on 10 artists are broken up by intervening sections in which a number of series by various artists (each reproduced in full, including all 139 etchings in Thomas Schütte’s Low Tide Wandering) are essentially scattered throughout the book, held together by a Ben-Day dot motif that continues inward from the cover. Through its exploded spatialization of images, the catalogue responds diligently to the way contemporary print media often incorporates Internet-inspired seriality as a strategy alongside other forms of repetition and older technologies like letterpress and intaglio. Christophe Cherix, Chief Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books and the exhibition organizer, says in his essay, “Over the last two decades, artists with no prior experience with printmaking have produced truly ambitious printed projects, often integrating newly available technologies with traditional techniques and choosing to work independently.”

Interior spreads from Print/Out: 20 Years in Print (MoMA, 2012). From left: Thomas Nozkowski. One from Untitled. 2006. © 2012 Thomas Nozkowski, courtesy The Pace Gallery. Damien Hirst. Sandwich from The Last Supper. 1999. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACP, London. Daniel Joseph Martinez. One from If Only God Had Invented Coca Cola, Sooner! Or, The Death of My Pet Monkey. 2004. © 2012 Daniel Joseph Martinez. Kelley Walker. Ten from Andy Warhol Doesn't Play Second Base for the Chicago Cubs. 2010 © Kelley Walker. Thomas Schütte. Three from Low Tide Wandering. 2001. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Damien Hirst. Salad from The Last Supper. 1999. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACP, London. Thomas Schütte. Six from Low Tide Wandering. 2001. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Kara Walker. Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) and Banks's Army Leaving Simmsport from Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated). 2005. © 2012 Kara Walker. Thomas Nozkowski. One from Untitled. 2006. © 2012 Thomas Nozkowski, courtesy The Pace Gallery

Print/Out: 20 Years in Print pays keen attention to print’s quintessential form of repetition, the edition, now burst open. In order to experience the edition in its entirety, the reader must flip back and forth between the Ben-Day dot sections and the index at the back of the book, where full captions, including dimensions and materials, are listed. Individual images are labeled only with the title, year, and artist’s name in scattered huddles throughout the volume, with no obvious organizational logic other than motif, so that the works exist incompletely, at once here and elsewhere and never all in the same place. Additionally, several kinds of paper of varying weights, sizes, and textures are used, calling attention the the printed page as yet another form of “printmaking.”

Installation views of Print/Out, The Museum of Modern Art, February 19–May 14, 2012. Photo by Thomas Griesel. © The Museum of Modern Art

The award-winning duo Mevis and Van Deursen of Amsterdam designed the catalogue and played an important role in designing the exhibition—which in many ways imitates the catalogue. Works hang from floor to ceiling (the catalogue’s transitional Ben-Day sections become wallpaper segments in the show), as if from bottom of page to top. Some of the catalogue’s pages are reproduced on the gallery walls in order to highlight the influence of graphic design on contemporary print media. With its screenprinted cover, featuring Ben-Day dots overlying a Martin Kippenberger print, the catalogue is itself a fine-art print edition—and a testament to the lasting vitality of that tradition in the digital era.

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