Osiris, New York
Benjamin Shiff, director of the Osiris imprint, played a major role in the re-emergence of printmaking in Louise Bourgeois’s practice in the late 1980s, and remained an important force in her creative use of the medium up until her last years. He worked with her primarily in two periods—the late 1980s to early 1990s, and then the 2000s, with an especially intense phase from 2005 to 2010.
Shiff took an experimental approach with Bourgeois, noting that he was “trying to get her into new territory.” Although not a printer himself, he worked side-by-side with the artist in sessions of several hours, keenly sensitive to possible directions a project might take. He depended on professional workshops for printing; in particular, Wingate Studio of Hinsdale, New Hampshire. His focus was on series, portfolios, and illustrated books—formats that allowed for expanded visual narratives. He also encouraged the artist to embellish her prints with hand additions and elements of text. Among his major early projects with Bourgeois was the illustrated book the puritan, of 1990, with a series of unique variants of its individual plates.
Bourgeois’s late work with Shiff constitutes a remarkably innovative body of printmaking. He brought large printing plates scaled to accommodate her work table and suggested soft ground etching, which vividly captured the marks made by the artist’s frail hand. The imagery she produced teems with biomorphic abstract forms, often enhanced with gouache, watercolor, pencil, and even fabric collage. In several cases these series—originating in the print medium—became monumental room-scale installations.