Working with new and old technologies—video and printmaking—Baumgartner addresses the representation of speed and of fleeting imagery through subjects that range from fields of wind turbines to cars on highways to military bombers in flight. In 1987 Baumgartner began experimenting with the medium of woodcut, the oldest printmaking technique and one with a great tradition in her hometown of Leipzig, Germany. Since the 1990s she has worked exclusively with a horizontal line structure in her woodcuts, basing many of her compositions on her own video stills.
Transall is Baumgartner’s largest woodcut to date—over fourteen feet in length—and, remarkably, it is based on a newspaper photograph only inches in size. The print depicts a lineup of aircrafts waiting to be deployed, their power restrained, for the moment, by their stillness. (The title refers to the Transall C-160, a military transport aircraft developed in the 1960s and used over the decades for cargo, refueling, and surveillance.)
To create this print, Baumgartner used a computer to magnify the image and transfer it onto an enormous woodblock for carving. Over a period of ten months, the artist laboriously incised hundreds of horizontal lines, until the complete image was realized and ready for printing. Its horizontal construction is emphasized by the panoramic format of the paper, which in turn underscores the magnitude of the aircrafts’ wingspans. The density of the black-and-white linework produces optical sensations that give the illusion of vibration—an effect that enhances the tension between movement and stasis in the image itself.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 202.