Mostly, Print/Out treats digital technology as a new factor that erodes traditional barriers to the accessibility of print as an art medium. Certainly this is important. But we live in a world where our relationship to repeatable images is transforming daily, and in this cultural context how prints are made is significantly less interesting than why we still make them.

via MoMA’s Print/Out « PRINTERESTING.

I spent a little time this morning reading PRINTERESTING’s thoughtful review of MoMA’s Print/Out.  Most of the press I’ve caught about the exhibition has been pretty caustic (let’s not forget my own ire about an interactive exhibit by Print Studio, which was organized in conjunction with Print/Out).  How institutions like MoMA present printmaking to the public matters, so I’m always interested in the curatorial choices made by these institutions.  I really wish I had the time and money to go see Print/Out with my own eyes, so I could form my own opinions.

There does seem to be a strong thread that emphasizes content over craft, pushing printmaking into a more conceptual arena that de-emphasizes the actual print process.  While I do think that printmaking overall could do with a little more focus on concept, engaging the process of making prints is the main draw for working in the medium (for me and many printmakers I know, at least).  I love printmaking because it is one of the few fields in art that is still unabashedly concerned with craft, because one must be in order to pull successful prints.  “Printmaking, like sex, is not solely about reproduction,” someone (I don’t know who) once said, and I agree.  For the public, however, printmaking processes remain mysterious; the challenge is making prints that are not just good prints, but good art.

Anyone out there care to weigh in?  My thoughts on this topic clearly haven’t been worked out, so I’m curious how other printmakers are looking at this.


2 thoughts on “MoMA’s Print/Out « PRINTERESTING

  1. I just read the full article, and am hesitant. Form the photographs of the show, it appears the curatorial choice was to create an upscale poster shop. I feel this diminishes the power of the works included. Also, I don’t agree with placing more of a focus on the digital revolution than traditional works. For me, the act of making a print is a large part of of why a make a print.

    1. I agree. Most, if not all, of the printmakers I know make prints because they are engaged with the process, and not digital processes. It’s a different ball of wax when you have a non-printmaker artist working with a print shop to produce an edition, but that’s certainly not representative of the majority of contemporary printmaking.

      Maybe it’s just snobbery, but I have a hard time accepting that digital processes qualify as printmaking just because multiples are possible. By that logic, photography is also printmaking, and they have never been considered to be the same thing before, though there are places of overlap (photogravure comes to mind).

      Perhaps we are just as a point where these boundaries and definitions can only be seen clearly in hindsight.

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