Working States


Part I – Critical Theory:

Theoretical considerations of the field of printmaking, including its effects on visual culture, its place within the artworld, its education, its value, etc.

Adams, Alexander. “Cause for concern”, Printmaking Today. Vol. 13, part 2, Summer 2004.

In this essay, Alexander Adams discusses the future of printmaking as an artistic medium. He takes note of the lack of differentiation being made between artists’ prints and signed facsimiles; he conse quently provides his own working definition of what constitutes an “original print”. He then evaluates the viability of his newer definition, referencing computer-generated art as one of his main examples. For the sake of the medium’s progress, Adams argues, students should be taught to use both tradi tional and digital printing methods. He also outlines a number of measures that could be taken by col leges, galleries, critics, tutors, artists and major art institutions to prevent the decline of printmaking.

Allen, Gwen, and Cherise Smith. “Publishing Art: Alternative Distribution in Print.” Art Journal. 2007.

In this short article, Allen and Smith discuss how “alternative distribution art” successfully generated the necessary kind of “self-reflexivity” about institutions and audiences both inside and outside the so-called “art world”, paving the way for the advent of modern and post-modern art. Allen and Smith hail this kind of art as a significant element in the inception of contemporary art.

Ashe, Thomas P. “Collaboration and Color Management in Fine Art Digital Printmaking”. April 2001.

This essay is Thomas Ash’s thesis, which he submitted for the degree of Master of Applied Science in Pho tography, Australia.

Ashe quotes several publications and uses several historical examples of collaborations in printmak ing to argue in favor of and to distinguish between the various elements of the complex partnership among printers and artists. He also argues at length in favor of collaboration more generally, outlining the specific benefits it can bring to an artist’s as well as a printer’s carrier, work, and experience. He uses the history of Crown Point Press, the work of Robert Blackburn, and the words of Garo Antea sian and Clinton Adams (among others) as evidence for his research.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Illuminations. New York: Schocken Books, 1968. (The article was originally published c. 1936)

Framed by a criticism of the Fascist project of aestheticizing war and politics, Walter Benjamin ar gues, “That which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art.” With his finger on the pulse of the audience – the viewers – Benjamin takes a quasi-psychoanalytical ap proach to deciphering exactly what effects the advent of heavy machinery has had on culture and on the public conscience (and the ways in which the Fascist regimes have harnessed and taken advantage of these effects). He begins by attacking mechanical reproduction for its deconstruction of the histori cal testimony, of the authenticity, and of the authority – what he calls the “aura” - of the art object. His analysis, however, concentrates principally on photography and film with sound, while still addressing everything from the religious/cult statue to the growing popularity of early 20th century conceptual art. By parsing out his understanding of the mediating and destructive role that machinery has assumed, Benjamin argues that humankind has eliminated its natural distance from reality, caus ing a physical and psychological penetration of the real (and of the artwork) that ultimately results in self-alienation. This self-alienation, he argues, has reached such a degree that it can experience “its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.” Benjamin’s article is a crucial theoretical piece that jump-started discussions of “High” and “Low” art, of the effect of film and photography on the public conscience, and, of course, of the effect of mechanical reproduction on the artwork.

Brandler, John. “A print is a print is a”, Art Review. UK: Vol. 51, Sept. 1999. 44-45.

John Brandler explores the concept that edition size affects a collector’s appreciation of a print. He addresses the shortcomings of our current way of defining a fine art print, and explains the language for dis cussing prints used by his own gallery.

Camnitzer, Luis. “Printmaking: A Colony of the Arts”, Working States, 2008.

Luis Camnitzer, in this article about the unique set of values that have been attributed to the art and mar ket of prints, ultimately praises the computer era. He considers technology to be the tool through which the printmaker will eventually be able to reaffirm his/her status as an artist that generates “pure vision.” “Art,” writes Camnitzer, “will be the representation of pure vision or just pure vision – unhampered by the clumsi ness of material crafts” thanks to such programs as Photoshop and thanks to technological distribution meth ods such as the internet. This “clumsiness of material crafts” and the ability of the printmaker to reproduce his/her own artwork, Camnitzer argues, are what have made printmaking a colony of the arts, a subject that tries to live up to the standard of “High Art” and of “industry.” Relating his argument to his own life, Cam nitzer remembers a visit he made to the Pratt Graphics Art Center during which the director commended his faculty exclusively according to their technical innovations. Pairing this anecdote with his analogy of the colonized nation, Camnitzer argues that printmaking has been tied not to a desire to be industrially and artis tically progressive, but rather to catching up with those already valued qualities.


Cornwell, Graeme. “The TECHNO-FETISH in Printmaking.” Prints and Printmaking. 1992.

Graeme Cornwell discusses, in what he repeatedly claims is “not a criticism”, how artists and theorists alike have constructed the presence of technology within the art of printmaking. Going as far back as the replace ment of the illuminator with the printer, Cornwell takes note of the process of excision of the artist’s ego from the work through an acknowledgement of technology. His first principle, then, is that “contrary to popular belief, printmaking is already theorized. (It is a discipline which incidentally but not inadvertently nor ill-advisedly treats technology as more important than imagery in order to define itself)”.

Crimp, Douglas. “Pictures.” October. 8 (1979): 75-88.

Douglas Crimp analyzes distortions enacted on narrative and the real by certain “pictures” – visual represen tations (not re-presentations) and fragments that have been modified, framed, or orchestrated by an artist.

Dowd, Douglas. “Prints & politics: persuasion”, Contemporary Impressions. Vol. 2, no. 1, Spring 1994. 14-17.

In the context of Clement Greenberg’s essay “Towards a New Laocoön” (1940), Dowd applies Greenberg’s principles of the independence of the art form to the field of printmaking in post-modern society. Identifying the interdisciplinary nature of printmaking as a defining feature of the post-modern artform, he suggests that printmakers return to a tradition of promoting a cultural or political agenda, a strategy by which printmaking can continue to retain its independence.

Drucker, Johanna. “Violating Protocols.” Working States, 2008.

In this summary of her remarks made during the panel discussion “Command Print” at the Southern Graphics Council Conference of 2008, Johanna Drucker considers the ways in which digital media generates a con ceptual break with generally accepted notions of what constitutes the art of printmaking. She also argues that digital media forces a reevaluation of the extent of printmaking’s cultural impact. By analyzing the valued systems of production, conception, distribution, agency, and critical discourse that already surround print making, Drucker argues that the advent of digital media transforms and expands not only the definitions of printmaking, but also our understanding of its cultural practices. However, she hopes that digital media will soon no longer be understood as a violent rupture in the protocols of art and of printmaking, but, rather, as a transforming force on both the practical and conceptual levels.

Field, Richard S. “Sentences on printed art”, Print Collector’s Newsletter. Vol. 25, no. 5, Nov-Dec 1994. 171.

In 30 statements about the nature of the print as an artistic medium, Richard Field presents his views on the definition of the print, its aim, its use, its relation to society, the notion of the multiple, the use of language, the relationship between prints and space, technology, art history and communication.

Gibson, Andrea. “Art Under Pressure.” Perspectives. 2002.

Andrea Gibson, through an analysis of several printmaking techniques and artists, discusses the power and value of the print as opposed to the reproduction.

Green, Charles. “Art as Printmaking: the Deterritorialized Print.” Prints and Printmaking. 1992.

In an analysis of the technological and artistic developments in printmaking in the early 1990s, Charles Green consid ers the artistic and socio-political force generated by printmaking in that decade. He is particularly interested in the subversions that a medium obsessed with its own practice and technological connection is capable of enacting: “while the traditional conventions of printmaking continue to exist they are also empty shells,” he states, emphasizing that the advent of new technologies allows for a simultaneous retrospective self-analysis. He looks at the art of Mike Parr, Lyn Roberts-Goodwin, Yasumasa Morimura, and Phillip George to support his argument.

Haas, Kevin. “Convergent Theories: Printmaking, Photography & Digital Media.” Kevin Haas: Accumulated Urban Images and Moments. 2006.

In this panel proposal for the 2006 CAA Conference, Kevin Haas wants to question the theoretical and historical value of print making and why these aspects – as much as the art itself – have been largely ignored.

Haxthausen, Charles W. “Reproduction/Repetition: Walter Benjamin/Carl Einstein”, October. October Magazine Ltd. And Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oct. 2004. 48-74.

Contrasting Carl Einstein’s theory of repetition with Walter Benjamin’s theory of reproduction, Charles Haxthausen attempts to bring their two radically different positions into dialogue with each other. Most of the essay parses out Benjamin’s conceptual ization of the break from tradition that he understands was generated by the age of mechanical reproduction. Haxthausen then juxtaposes Benjamin’s theory to Einstein’s theory of the inescapability of tradition and the psychological satisfaction we take from repetition (a Freudian reading of the Modern era). Haxthausen, ultimately, constructs these two thinkers as equally complex and problematic theoreticians on the art of mechanical reproduction, film, and photography. He then considers the ways that these new technologies modified our perception of the real.

Jonquières, Pierre. “Pour une definition de l’estampe [Towards a definition of prints]”, Arts et Metiers du Livre. No. 219, May-June 2000. 41-47.

Claiming that the terms “print” and “original” are frequently misused, Pierre Jonquières establishes a number of dialectics regard ing various elements of printmaking. He enumerates specific terms that should be addressed as printmakers attempt to more thoroughly define their art-making practice. He questions how an original print is understood to be “original”, suggesting solu tions (that he himself deems insufficient) to this question, including the direct involvement of the artist in the making of a print. Jonquières concludes that, as we approach a fuller understanding of the methods and materials that characterize printmaking, we will arrive at an expanded definition of the art form.

Merrill, Hugh J. “American Dialogue Defining Printmaking in the 1990s”, Printmaking Today. Vol. 3, no. 2, Summer 1994.

Hugh Merrill reports on an ongoing discussion concerning printmaking in the United States. The definition of the print, he states, must be expanded to include the current practices of collaborative production as well as the production of multiple copies. Merrill traces the history of this debate, raising the question of whether printmaking is still a valid discipline in the post-modern world. He additionally lists some definitions of art that were proposed by various conferences, and concludes with an appreciation of the fact that the continuing expansion of the definition has given rise to a useful dialogue on the wider issues of culture, media and production.

Merrill, Hugh. “Educating the Next Generation of Printmakers.” Hugh Merrill Writings. April 1991.

Drawing from his personal experience as a teacher, Hugh Merrill composed this brief treatise on the various compo nents that should go into educating young printmakers. Firstly, Merrill insists upon educating students on the “multiple functions, skills and technologies” of prints as communicative and physical objects. He also insists on dismantling the technically based curriculum into something more expansive and theoretical. Finally, Merrill states that the print should be understood “as a fluid and vital means of expression rather than a secondary act of representation.”

Merrill, Hugh. “Marginal Short.” Hugh Merrill Writings. June 1996.

Hugh Merrill comments on the marginality which printmaking has acquired in the art world: it is both a mainstream me dium, but, simultaneously, it is considered a marginal art. In order to understand its marginal position (which he believes has been established by the complex and pre-established system of art evaluation), Merill divides printmaking into three components: the “industrial and collaborative” component, “the publication of blue chip artists by collaborative print stu dios,” and the component driven by “universities and regional print societies.” This latter component, according to Merrill, is the most unfortunate victim of marginalization, but also the locus of printmaking’s slow rise to the public consciousness.

Merrill, Hugh. “Miami Presentation.” Hugh Merrill Writings.

Hugh Merrill is acutely aware of the great break that the age of digital media has created within the realm of visual culture and of image production, stating, “the digital life of the image insures its existence as resource, information, data, common chatter, animation, extruded sculptural form, commercial, community, or art communication.” Besides his gen eral enthusiasm at the public and communicative possibilities of this new medium, Merrill is interested in the possibility of instantaneous change – not only of what defines art, but of the image itself – through the click of a mouse.

Merrill, Hugh. “The Never Ending Process Of Jumping Over.” Hugh Merrill Writings. June 1996.

Hugh Merrill here describes the various inquiries he attempts to answer in his art. He contends that his works are interested in generating within printmaking and media arts a constant progression beyond the generally accepted boundaries of the medium and of art.

Nelson, Robert. “Why Printmakers Canst Talk.” National Gallery of Australia. 1992.

Robert Nelson claims that postmodern art refuses to accept the role of printmaking as fine art because of the print makers’ refusal to verbalize concepts present in their work. He demands that printmakers discuss work outside the printmaking community in analytical, referential, and abstract terms.

Pelzer-Montada, Ruth. “Authenticity in Printmaking - A Red Herring”. 2nd IMPACT Conference 2001.

In this analysis of the technology and methods used by artists such as Sarah Charlesworth and Friedhard Kiekeben (both of whom use technology to not only create their art but also endow it with a specific significance), Ruth Pelzer-Montada argues that the question of authenticity – as introduced by Walter Benjamin and elaborated by others – is no longer a valid one.

Pulin, Carol. “Postmodern Printmaking: A Key”, Contemporary Impressions. Vol. 2, no. 1, Spring 1994. 11-13.

Carol Pulin attempts to define printmaking from within a post-modern context, and offers a definition based on the function of the print in society rather than on the technique and practices used to make it. She concludes that printmak ing should strive to be egalitarian (rather than elitist) in order to remain a popular art form.

Ross, Conrad H. “The Monoprint and the Monotype: A case of semantics”, Art Voices: South. Vol. 2, no. 2, July-Aug 1979. 89-91.

Concerned with an evaluation of the terms “monotype” and “monoprint”, Conrad Ross takes a semantic approach to the definitions of printmaking. In this process, he explores the commercial side as well as the fine arts side of print making.

Weisberg, Ruth. “Critical Theory and the Print: New Criteria for Print Qualities in the Expanded Field”, Contempo rary Impressions. Vol. 1, no. 1, Spring 1993. 10-12.

Ruth Weisberg attempts a formulation of a broader definition for printmaking, noting the ways in which a previous adherence to modernist principles led to the distortion of the nature of prints. Weisberg investigates the validity of old aesthetic judgments when applied to printmaking in a post-modern world. She evaluates these anachronistic applica tions in terms of the visual image as image – as source of perception and as sign – stating that these criteria form a framework for further analysis.

Weisberg, Ruth. “The Absent Discourse: Critical Theories and Printmaking”, The Tamarind Papers. Vol. 13, 1990. 8-10.

Ruth Weisberg, noting that little printmaking theory and criticism is incorporated in printmaking courses, attacks the pre-established tradition of prints as merely stepping-stones between painting and photography.

Young, J., Fernandez, R., Richards, L. “Print to Faux-Graphique”, New Art Examiner. Vol. 7, no. 5, Feb. 1980.

With an article about Norman Rockwell’s photo-mechanically reproduced prints as their springboard, print curators Young, Fernandez, and Richards each write a letter discussing the aesthetics of the printed work, the function and impor tance of its “aura” and of its “originality”. Significantly, all three curators conclude their letters by resting on the fact that

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