Prints from the VINALHAVEN PRESS
A special event to benefit the
Portland Museum of Art Contemporary Art Fund
In addition to prints from this noted press the exhibit will include unique development work, proofs and drawings that have never before been seen or available to the public. They are part of the history of an exceptional press founded, directed and operated by Patricia Nick from 1984 until 2002. Summer workshops were held in an old schoolhouse on Vinalhaven Island. The resulting prints were made available to the public at the Vinalhaven Press Gallery, a spacious loft in New York's Soho district. During its years of operation Vinalhaven Press attracted the cream of master printmakers who worked with internationally known artists to create so-called super-prints. The Press also editioned prints on request for the Portland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. Vinalhaven etchings, lithographs, woodcuts and monotypes have been widely exhibited in major museums throughout the world. When the Press closed, its records archive was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution.
Excerpted Maine Sunday Telegram review by Philip Isaacson, April 11, 2010
"Vinalhaven Press a print gold mine"
I don't give shopping advice--but--I suggest that you give thought to acquiring some work--an item of some kind--that relates to the wonderful Vinalhaven Press. The Press was a glory of Maine. From 1984 to 2002, its island studios offered facilities and encouragement to a succession of artists who had the fortitude to try their hand at contemporary printmaking. The initiates ranged from international stature to gifted, but not fully seasoned.
The common thread was the fact that few, if any, had applied themselves to the discipline of producing an edition of prints. The technologic possibilities of our time are bewildering, and an edition implies a conviction that a work is worthy of multiple distribution. The bar here is much higher than anyone who has not made a print can comprehend.
Prints are little miracles, and printmakers are grand heroes of the arts. It is ironic that one of the medium's principal virtues--multiple copies--diminishes their stature in the eyes of the unenlightened.
As Vinalhaven bait, I offer the names Robert Indiana, Alex Katz, Komar & Melamid, Mel Chin, Robert Cummings and Charles Hewitt, all alumni of the Press. Some made single editions; others made several. Other names are not as recognizable, but all who worked at the Press did so under the eyes and hands of a series of professional master printers. Their discrimination and the application of their skills are under-declared supports for many of the editions.
Professional fine-art printing is not a vocation for persons with big egos. All of this came to pass under the inspiration, guidance, courage, support and devotion of Patricia Nick. An undertaking of the magnitude of the Vinalhaven Press is a contribution to the cultural life of our times. Its accomplishments in fine-art printmaking are a tribute to Nick that enlarges with time.
After the Press ceased operations, its archives were acquired by the Smithsonian Institution. However, the Press retained some finished prints and a great deal of unique material relating to the production of the prints. Among the latter are proofs, preliminary drawings, color trials, wood blocks, etching plates, linoleum blocks and more. They are items that, in addition to their aesthetic merit, are intensely interesting as factors in a process.
For example, there is a full-scale drawing by Indiana for his print "For Friendship," a tribute to Marsden Hartley. The drawing, a brilliant abstraction, is replete with specific instructions to the printer in Indiana's hand. Artifacts such as this almost never come on the market.
Now, to get back to shopping suggestions. The material retained by the Press is being offered for sale with a portion of the proceeds going the Portland Museum of Art to enhance its contemporary art fund. Many of the principal items can be seen at the June Fitzpatrick Gallery at MECA, while the balance of the material can be seen at a nearby ancillary gallery upon request at the Fitzpatrick.
The items are fascinating because of their fusion of art and history, and once gone, they will be gone forever.
Excerpted Portland Phoenix review by Annie Larmon, April 14, 2010
"Printing matters: Vinalhaven Press artifacts at June Fitzpatrick"
Over the course of its 18-year run, the Vinalhaven Press selected major artists Robert Indiana, Mel Chin, Robert Cumming, Charles Hewitt, Yvonne Jacquette, Peter Saul, and Leon Golub (among others) to explore the medium of printmaking with leading master printers at summer workshops in an old schoolhouse on the quiet Maine island. While varying greatly in aesthetics and ranging in experience with the art of printmaking, artists in residence at Vinalhaven were all encouraged to experiment, and to benefit from collaboration and the communal nature of the press. In the comic adhered to the manifesto poster, one character's speech bubble reads, "Like he said! It's our business! Which makes it none of yours!" It seems the attachment to approaching a traditional image-making process through experimental filters and a sense of camaraderie fostered an open and focused environment, and is what kept some artists coming back to the press year after year. During the off-season, Nick ran the Vinalhaven Press Gallery in New York's SoHo neighborhood, making the editions created on the island available to the public. The press quickly garnered a reputation.
After the press closed in 2002 the Smithsonian Institution acquired its archives, but Nick retained some unique supporting material for the prints, including linoleum and wood blocks, proofs, and sketches and guides for master printers. This material is stacked in neat piles around Nick's apartment, and completed prints cover the walls salon style. Even the hallway leading up to the squirreled-away apartment boasts a Charles Hewitt triptych and a series of Indiana's "Wall" prints. The accessibility to these revered artists' process truly bolsters and expands our understanding of their work. Three Indiana lithographs from 1990 are hung just inside Nick's door--two are incomplete versions of the third, alongside a sketch on vellum that served as a guide for the master printer. Viewed as a whole, the potential for the work can be appreciated, and we can see how Indiana played with variables, but was also incredibly specific in his communication with the printer and intentions for the finished work.
Bringing this accessibility to the public is a current show at June Fitzpatrick's Congress Street gallery at the Maine College of Art, showing selected etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, and monotypes by 17 Vinalhaven artists, some alongside their mothering wood block or sketch. Highlights include another Robert Indiana drawing and lithograph pairing titled "For Friendship," a coat-of-arms–like hard-edged design dedicated to painter Marsden Hartley, a large-scale and politically charged Komer & Melamid lithograph and monotype entitled "Double Revelation," and Mel Chin's "Flag of the Agricultural Revolution" (a woodcut rendition of the Chinese flag with yellow poisonous plants taking the place of stars). Also on view are a set of crude Peter Saul etchings with gorgeous line quality, boldly colored Grisha Buskin etching aquatints, and Goya-esque Robert Morris etchings.