THE BIG AMERICANS
The Art of Collaboration
4 October 2002 to 27 January 2003
The Art of Seduction
Soon after the establishment of Gemini GEL in January 1966, Tyler contacted Albers, proposing that they work together on a series of lithographs - which became the seminal White Line Squares.
The series was initially produced as two sets of eight colour lithographs, with a subsequent 17th print. Both series were issued in 1966. The series became the visual expression of Albers' thesis:
A white line within a color area instead of as a contour may present a newly discovered effect: When the line is placed within a so-called 'Middle' color, even when the color is very evenly applied, it will make the one color look like two different shades or tints of that color.1
The result is the appearance of four colours, despite the use of only three inks.
(1) Josef Albers: White Line Squares (exhibition catalogue), Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Gemini GEL, 1966, p. 19, cited in Brenda Danilowitz, The Prints of Josef Albers: a catalogue raisonné 1915-1976, New York: Hudson Hills Press, in association with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, 2001, p. 27.
Josef Albers Series l: White Line Square 1 1966, colour lithograph on Arches Cover mould-made paper, National Gallery of Australia
Initially, Albers had been sceptical about using lithography; he believed the process could not match the luminosity that he achieved in his painting series Homage to the Square. These paintings, which he began in 1950 and continued to work on obsessively for the rest of his life, consisted of what Albers called 'platters to serve color' - in different combinations, because of their interactions, the colours would have different 'readings'.
Josef Albers Homage to the Square: On an Early Sky 1964, oil on composition board, National Gallery of Australia
After a lifetime of honing his sense of colour, Albers had an extraordinary sensitivity to its subtleties. He demanded and received perfect colour matching, which was essential for the success of this and other print projects. The artist would bring a leaf or a twig and ask Tyler to replicate the colour exactly in ink. After making many proofs in the new intimate premises, with a small staff, their first joint effort in screenprinting at Bedford Village was Gray Instrumentation I in 1974 and Gray Instrumentation II the following year (two of four portfolios). Such precision in screenprinting had not been seen before. With Tyler, Albers produced these remarkable works shortly before he died in 1976.
Josef Albers Gray Instrumentation IIg 1975, colour screenprint, National Gallery of Australia
For Rauschenberg, Tyler promised that scale was not a problem. He decided to make a life-sized self-portrait and promptly took himself off to the Kaiser Medical Group where he had himself X-rayed in the nude, except for a pair of large boots. This X-ray became the key element for the print, Booster 1967. Photographic elements, the artist's drawing and some rubbings helped to complete the image. What was also notable about Booster was the combination of the different techniques of lithography and screen-printing on mould-made paper.
Booster became a key stepping stone in the history of postwar American printmaking, where limits to imagination and scale were discarded. It remains one of the most significant prints made in the twentieth century, helping to bring printmaking into a new era in which prints were to rival paintings in invention and size.
Robert Rauschenberg Booster 1967, colour lithograph, screenprint on Curtis Rag machine-made paper, National Gallery of Australia
Rauschenberg's next project with Gemini GEL was a revolutionary print series, Stoned Moon of 1969-70, in which the artist's aspirations and inspirations were matched by the skill and inventiveness of Tyler and the workshop team. Rauschenberg had been invited by NASA (the National Aeronautic and Space Administration) to witness the launch from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, of the rocket that would land a man on the moon. The artist was then commissioned by Gemini to make a series of prints drawing on this experience.
Aside from the originality of the concept of the Stoned Moon series, these prints required technical inventiveness and resourcefulness; and the scale of several of the works, including Sky Garden, had implications for the future history of collaborative printmaking. 'We kept increasing in scale', Tyler noted, 'not just because we wanted to, but the artists were actually asking for it.'
Robert Rauschenberg Sky Garden 1969, lithograph, National Gallery of Australia
Pages and Fuses of 1973-74 consists of a series of 12 paper works The Pages were delicately shaped works in combinations of pulp - made of natural coloured rag with additions of cords, cloth remnants and cloth tape. For Fuses Rauschenberg incorporated combinations of brilliantly coloured inked pulp, collaged with screenprinted tissue, to form unusual shapes such as can be seen in Link of 1974 - a twentieth-century version of a luminous medieval manuscript. This venture heralded the future of handmade paper in the Tyler workshops.
Robert Rauschenberg Link 1974 paper pulp, pigment, collage of screenprinted tissue, National Gallery of Australia
Jasper Johns selected all the large stones and, treasuring their quality and feel, started drawing on every one of them, making a series of numerals that were printed in black, using the limestone surfaces to great advantage.
Having printed the black numerals, Johns turned his attention to printing a coloured series from the same stones as the first, but with colour rainbow rolls - the stone inked with a roller loaded with several coloured inks. Printing two editions from the same stones could have been a difficult undertaking because an image can become degraded with use, so Tyler turned to a technique he had learned at Tamarind in 1963, which he had been taught by Marcel Durassier - he described it as a 'rub up technique',
It was a very elaborate way of capturing all the nuances of a wash that an artist applies to a stone. But it also puts [the printing surface] into slight relief. In the planographic medium of lithography, there really isn't any raised surface. It's chemical, it's flat, it is difficult to maintain, difficult to stabilise. But with Marcel's technique, with a little innovation here and there, I was able to create this very low relief that would sustain very long printings.1
Tyler successfully editioned the ten black numerals followed by the colour numerals, along with many proofs. The result includes lusciously coloured numbers such as Figure 7 1969 - with its image of a smiling Mona Lisa, and the artist's handprint.
(1) Roy Lichtenstein, quoted in Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: a catalogue raisonné 1948-1993, New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994, p. 111.
Jasper Johns Figure 7 1969, colour lithograph on Arjomari paper, National Gallery of Australia
Transforming the trite into beautifully wrought works of art in painting, printmaking and sculpture brought Johns to prominence during the Pop Art era.
Johns appropriated and refined his own work constantly. His first Toothbrush of 1959 was a cast sculpmetal version of this prosaic object, with the bristles replaced by teeth.
This image of the toothbrush was to reappear, including a relief sculpture Johns made with Tyler in 1969, The Critic Smiles, with the image moulded in wax and plaster, then embossed into sheet lead. The teeth were cast in gold by a dentist then set on the brush, which was leafed in tin. For this 1969 series of five reliefs, including the toothbrush, Johns revisted previous subject matter, including a shoe with a mirror; a flag; a light bulb; and a slice of bread. The original intention was that these compositions should be made in the form of embossed paper, using a hydraulic Hoe platen press at the Amsco Corporation. This failed because the press tore the paper. Tyler then suggested the hardier sheet lead.1
(1) Penelope Edmonds and Martha Simpson, Collaboration in the conservation of Jasper Johns' lead reliefs, unpublished manuscript, copy held by Jane Kinsman.
Jasper Johns The Critic Smiles 1969 sheet lead, gold casting and tin leafing relief, National Gallery of Australia
Typewriter Pointillism: Roy Lichtenstein
Lichtenstein developed an original aesthetic during the early 1960s that paradoxically highlighted industrial printing methods derived from his sources of inspiration. He adopted the subject matter of popular culture, of action movies and comics, romantic potboilers, advertisements, manufactured objects and items of food, such as in his paintings Kitchen Stove of 1961-62 and Peanut Butter Cup of 1962. These were rendered to achieve a mechanical look using the Ben Day dot system - a commercial printing technique used to denote halftones, named after the American illustrator Benjamin Day. On the side of the stove, for example, the eye mixes the colour of the dots (blue) and the colour of the background (white), which gives the appearance of a lighter blue. Lichtenstein's marriage of commercial subject matter with a masterful technique produced a double-edged art characterised by a keen wit and a sardonic style.
Roy Lichtenstein Kitchen Stove 1961-2, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Australia
The Monet prints of 1969 were the first works Lichtenstein made at Gemini GEL. On one level, the Cathedral and Haystack prints can be interpreted as following Monet's exploration of light and the passage of time. In Lichtenstein's words, they are 'supposed to be times of day'
The prints are also about looking. The combinations of colours, the motif and the dot screens provide for a range of viewing effects. The motif may appear to dissolve before the viewer's eyes, aided by the fact that, unlike so many of Lichtenstein's cartoon-inspired images, his Monet series of prints lacks the heavy outline in black used to define previous subjects
Roy Lichtenstein Cathedral 4 1969, colour lithograph on Special Arjomari paper, National Gallery of Australia
Peace Through Chemistry I
Lichtenstein's next print series, made with Tyler in 1970, was Peace Through Chemistry, a group of five prints using lithography and screenprinting - sometimes in concert, sometimes separately - and one relief. The artist described the imagery as 'muralesque' - 'they are a little like WPA murals'.1 Each composition consists of a head in profile, with chemistry paraphernalia and a machine-like, Art Deco look.
All the works relate to earlier iconography of the mid- to late sixties, such as that seen in his 1965 Castelli poster This Must be The Place, or his poster for the film festival at the Lincoln Center the following year. The poster had a similar thirties look.2 These works were stepping stones that took the artist towards Peace Through Chemistry.
(1) John Coplans, 'Interview: Roy Lichtenstein', in John Coplans (ed.), Roy Lichtenstein, London: Allen Lane, the Penguin Press, 1973, p. 99; the WPA was the Works Progress Administration, later to be known as the Works Projects Administration. This was established in 1933 and employed artists on various cultural programs, until it concluded in 1943.
(2) Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: a catalogue raisonné 1948-1993, New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994, cat nos III 20 and III 21 respectively, p. 272.
Roy Lichtenstein Peace Through Chemistry I 1970 colour lithograph, screenprint on Special Arjomari paper, National Gallery of Australia
Reflections on The Scream
The Reflections prints were so large and complex that the various processes were pushed to the very limit, while demanding that the printer achieve perfect registration and keep the paper, with all its collage and embossing, intact. The series was important for the development of Lichtenstein's subject matter, for it showed the artist contemplating what he once considered the anti-contemplative nature of his early work.
The Reflections reinterpret and refine the earlier paintings and prints drawn from cartoons, romance and war comics or from other artists' work. In Lichtenstein's re-examination of the art of the past in Reflections on The Scream, we see the cartoon character of baby Swee'-pea - the offspring of Popeye and Olive Oyl - whose howling face refers to the Expressionist painting The Scream by Edvard Munch.
Roy Lichtenstein Reflections on The Scream 1989-90 colour lithograph, screenprint, woodcut, metalised PVC plastic film collage, embossing on mould-made Somerset paper, National Gallery of Australia
Nude With Blue Hair
For Nude with Yellow Pillow, Nude with Blue Hair and Roommates of 1994, Lichtenstein reinterpreted the type of comic strip imagery he first used in the 1960s
The Nudes, like the series Reflections, are key examples of Lichtenstein's late Pop Art style, which emerged in the 1990s. This style was one of great complexity and refinement, but one which also alluded to his past. Although he returned to the imagery in his scrapbooks of teen romances and war comics, he transformed it. The bathing beauties who populated the DC comic books are now nude and set in pastiches of earlier iconography - the everyday objects, the interiors and scenes drawn from advertisements. The artist executed these compositions in a lightened palette and with his ever-present sardonic wit.
Roy Lichtenstein Nude With Blue Hair 1994, colour relief print, National Gallery of Australia
A Moving Focus: David Hockney
Picture of Melrose Avenue in an Ornate Gold Frame
The first group of prints Tyler and Hockney made together was a set of six colour lithographs, A Hollywood Collection 1965, at the Gemini Ltd workshop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles
A Hollywood Collection is a witty group of compositions in bold colours not seen before in Hockney's printmaking. The combination of bright colour and the mixture of flat and rounded forms owes something to his painting style, since he began painting in synthetic polymer paint after he moved to Los Angeles. Each print is in the form of a different genre of painting - a still life, a landscape, a portrait, a cityscape, a nude and an abstract - an instant art collection. The genres are also shown in a variety of styles, from a Cubist variation and an abstract form, to a figure drawn in a manner recollecting the naïve drawing of Dubuffet (an early influence on Hockney) and so on. One has a painterly tree set against a flat sky; another has a painterly sky, with the stark flat form of a building in the foreground.
Despite the melange of styles, these compositions were nevertheless unified. As part of the composition Hockney 'framed' each work with a different design, ranging from the ornamental to a more simple modernist frame. These witty inclusions were inspired by his workplace surroundings: 'Gemini was behind a frame-maker's shop, and that's why I did the frames as part of the prints.'1
(1) David Hockney, David Hockney by David Hockney, London: Thames and Hudson, 1976, p. 101.
David Hockney Picture of Melrose Avenue in an Ornate Gold Frame 1965, colour lithograph on Rives BFK paper, National Gallery of Australia
Hockney became set on the idea of a weather series, beginning with Rain, a print inspired by Japanese woodcuts
To create this colour lithograph Rain, from the Weather series, Hockney dripped ink onto a lithographic stone. In the documentary film Reaching Out, he commented: 'I did it kind of as a joke really. I loved the idea of the rain as it hit the ink. It would make the ink run. The moment I thought of the idea I couldn't resist it.' He then turned his attention to other ideas relating to the weather theme, inventing the series as he proceeded, and drawing on the Japanese ukiyo-e print imagery of such artists as Hokusai and Hiroshige.
David Hockney Rain 1973, colour lithograph, National Gallery of Australia
Following the Weather series, Hockney turned to portraiture. This superb draughtsman is noted for his sensitive, beautifully rendered portraits of lovers, family and friends. Rarely does he make portraits of those he has not met before.
The range and subtlety of the washes he could achieve at the workshop were of a kind that Hockney had never been offered before, and drawing directly onto the stone or plate suited him. Hockney felt secure that the quality of his drawing would not be lost: Tyler would 'make sure everything you put there stays there, which is not that easy, especially if you've used delicate washes, thin crayon, things like that'.
David Hockney Celia Smoking 1973, lithograph on Angoumois a la main paper, National Gallery of Australia
A Diver Paper Pool 17
On a visit in 1978, Hockney saw the works made of paper pulp by Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland and thought them 'stunningly beautiful especially Ellsworth Kelly's'.1 He decided to stay for a few days, curious about the possibilities of paper pulp.
As the days at Bedford passed, Hockney allowed the process to lead him into new avenues. In the end the artist stayed for 49 days, working 16 hours a day with just one day off (Tyler counted the days, Hockney did not). From August to October of 1978, Hockney made a series of 29 paper works with Tyler and assistant Lindsay Green. The subject became the swimming pool.
The pool, the light and shadows on the water, the steps, and the diving board, and later with the effect on it of different times of day and seasonal changes were all examined by Hockney in these changing circumstances just as Claude Monet had done nearly a century before. To assist his process, Hockney took multiple polaroids of the subject, as well as drawing it. He stopped considering papermaking as a graphic medium and began to 'paint' with colour paper pulp, using galvanised cookie cutter moulds to make the shapes, and turkey basters and other implements such as spoons to poor or squirt on the dye. The sheet would be half pressed, squeezing out some of the water and leaving it moist, so that Hockney could add further colour, enlivening the work. He would dart back and forth like a painter touching up a canvas.
(1) David Hockney, quoted in Nikos Stangos (ed.), David Hockney: Paper Pools, London: Thames and Hudson, 1980, p. 10, see note 1.
David Hockney A Diver Paper Pool 17 1978 hand-coloured and pressed coloured paper pulp, National Gallery of Australia
In February 1984, on the way from Mexico City to Oaxaca, the artist's car broke down and Hockney, with Gregory Evans and David Graves were stranded in the little town of Acatlán. There they stayed at the Hotel Romano Angeles while repairs were under way. The artist was captivated by the hotel and its garden:
On his return to Los Angeles, Hockney spoke to Tyler about his Mexican experience, and Tyler saw this as an opportunity to work outside the confines of a studio. Mylar was used as the drawing surface, from which the image could be then be directly transferred to a photosensitive lithographic plate. Hockney enthusias-tically embraced it, as Tyler recalls:
It was to be a perfect technique for Hockney, as the artist was adept at thinking in layers and warmed to experimentation. The transparent nature of mylar allowed him to view all the different coloured marks on the combined sheets at one glance.
The Moving Focus series also stands as an important investigation into ideas about representing space and time. As Hockney explained: 'In these prints there is no way to see what is depicted all at once.'
Your eyes have to move over the surface of the paper. In doing that you're very aware that you keep moving from one thing to another and in your mind you convert that time to space Space can be made into time. That's the way space is created in these pictures, because there's many perspectives. If there's only one-point perspective, there's only one moment in time. That's why it restricts space, because one moment in time has put a boundary on space.1
(1) Interview with Pat Gilmour at Tyler Graphics Ltd, Bedford, New York, 22 June 1985, quoted in Ken Tyler, 'Layers of Space and Time: David Hockney's Moving Focus', in Contemporary Master Prints from the Lilja Collection, Liechtenstein and London: the Lilja Art Fund Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions Limited, 1995, p. 124.
David Hockney 'Hotel Acatalan: Two Weeks Later' 1985 colour lithograph on two sheets of HMP handmade paper, National Gallery of Australia
The Painterly Print: Robert Motherwell
America-La France Variation I
A method favoured by Motherwell was collage, which he considered as an equivalent to a modern still life; and his collage work serves as a journal outlining his development. But collage had its difficulties too.
The problem is, given these disparate and conflicting elements, how ultimately to unify them. It's a painful and precarious way of making order. The separate elements tend to carry on guerrilla warfare with each other, a source of tension, true, but also possibly of chaos. Nevertheless Motherwell rated collage methods highly.
Motherwell's collage prints, such as the America-La France Variations series of 1983-84 (named after the company that made American fire engines, rather than being the artist's salute to the culture of France) reveals the multiple changes each image underwent over time. The nine prints and multiple progressive proofs attest the painstaking process he undertook.
Robert Motherwell America-La France Variation I, 1983-4 colour lithograph, collage on TGL handmade paper, National Gallery of Australia
St Michael III
Tyler was keen for Motherwell to work on a large scale, but the artist continued making small prints. He was a chain smoker and made use of cigarette boxes for his collages, just as they appeared in the French Cubists' works on café life. To encourage him to think about a larger scale, Tyler took one of the cigarette collages, enlarged it and printed it. The exercise worked and Motherwell incorporated this in a large collage print. Editioned prints of Bastos of 1974-75 and the St Michael series of 1975-79 ensued, which combined the torn cigarette box elements with gestural sweeps in a powerful and dramatic large-scale form.
Robert Motherwell St Michael III 1979, colour lithograph, screenprint on mottled grey HMP handmade paper, National Gallery of Australia
One way Motherwell responded to the challenge of establishing a truly American art was by developing archetypal imagery. From 1948, he began his Elegies to the Spanish Republic, first in painting and later in printmaking. The images, evoking the tragic past, and the defeat of the democratically elected Republicans by the Monarchists in the 1930s civil war in his much-loved Spain, would stay with him for his lifetime.
The final group of works Motherwell made with Tyler reflects this changing interest and the printer's keenness for this to happen. That group includes Blue Elegy 1987and Mediterranean Light of 1991, which combine lithography and colour pressed paper pulp, providing a richness and a saturation of colour not achieved before by this artist.
(1) Ken Tyler, Qantas Birthday Lecture, 14 October 1999, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Robert Motherwell Blue Elegy 1987, colour relief, lithograph on TGL, handmade, hand-coloured paper, National Gallery of Australia
A Matter of Translation: Helen Frankenthaler
The idea for Frankenthaler's masterpiece Gateway (screen) took many years to evolve. In 1982 she had begun work on a colour intaglio and relief print on three sheets, Gateway, which was editioned in 1988.
Working with the lost-wax casting process, to produce parts of the frame of the editioned version of the screen, appealed to Frankenthaler. At the suggestion of the owner of the foundry, she used sand-blasted bronze plates, which formed the back of the screen. These she painted individually with acids, to produce ravishing bronze surfaces with patinas of extraordinary beauty. The editioned intaglio print, Gateway, was placed on the front of the screen. In all of Frankenthaler's work with Tyler this was a unique collaboration.
Helen Frankenthaler Gateway (screen) 1988 (detail), colour etching, relief, aquatint, stencil on 3 sheets of TGL handmade paper, National Gallery of Australia
Tales of Genji III
Tyler's collaboration with this demanding artist was at its closest and most radical during the making of the Tales of Genji series of prints. By this stage in her career, in the 1990s, Frankenthaler was keen to translate to printmaking the spontaneity and gestural qualities of painting. And it was a particular challenge for Tyler to offer the consummate printmaker something new in the field of the woodcut. He suggested that she begin by painting some carefully selected woods, and provided her with a range of brushes and sponges to experiment with. After painting several panels, she chose six exquisite examples, which became the studies for this series of prints.
Helen Frankenthaler Tales of Genji III 1998, colour woodcut, stencil on grey TGL handmade paper from a series of 6 colour woodcuts, National Gallery of Australia
A Print Epic: Frank Stella
In 1967 Stella began a series of Protractor paintings, notable for their bold curvilinear forms, large scale and vivid colour. He developed a variant of these compositions, which he enclosed in a square - such as Flin Flon of 1970. Painted in brilliant pigments in polymer and fluorescent paints, the symmetrical compositions and formal, organic shapes evoke Islamic pattern - something Stella was interested in at that time.
Frank Stella 'Flin Flon' 1970 synthetic polymer and fluorescent paint on canvas Purchased with the assistance of Terrey and Anne Arcus and Penelope and Harry Seidler 2002 National Gallery of Australia
The series Circuits of 1982-84, were printed from a combination of etched magnesium plates and woodblocks. The prints were named after motor racing tracks, for example the Imola prints (after the course in Italy) and the Pergusa prints (after the Sicilian track). Their compositions hark back to Abstract Expressionism, particularly the art of Jackson Pollock.
Frank Stella 'Pergusa Three' 1983 from 'Circuits' 1982-84 a series of 16 mixed-media prints Colour relief, woodcut on TGL handmade hand-coloured paper colour trial proof 4/5, edition of 30 printed by Tyler Graphics Ltd., Bedford Village, New York Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002 National Gallery of Australia
Juam is one of two from the Imaginary places series of 1997 (the other being Juam, State I) that refer to another of Melville's novels, Mardi, originally published in 1849. Juam is a mythical island with rivulets, greenery and singing birds, and a magical palace, the House of Morning, which took five hundred moons to complete.
Juam continues the further exploration of the third dimension in printmaking, with a rich sculptural quality derived from the method of its making. The printing elements for Juam consist of a carved plywood substrate with 102 irregularly shaped elements - one honeycomb aluminium; 39 copper and 12 magnesium plates; one bronze, 11 poured aluminium and 16 brass elements; and 22 aluminium rings. This collage of poured metal, of wonderfully irregular shapes and forms, was then inked with 144 colours, taking printmaking to yet another high point of excellence.
Frank Stella 'Juam' 1997 from Imaginary Places 1994-97 a series of 15 mixed-media prints. colour relief, etching, aquatint, lithograph, screenprint, woodcut, engraving on two sheets of TGL handmade, hand-coloured paper artist's proof 9, edition of 40 published by Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York Purchased with the assistance of the Orde Poynton Fund 2002 National Gallery of Australia