Pressing Through Time
Pressing Through Time at The Harwood Museum of Art is the first of a multi-venue series of exhibitions opening in Taos this autumn exploring the rich history of printmaking in Taos Valley.
By the 19th century the processes for making artistic prints were well established in Europe and incorporated in the principal centers of art in America. However, New Mexico was remote and not even part of the United States until 1846. The first printmaking relating to Taos by trained artists did not emerge (from presses elsewhere) until the 1850s, and did not flourish until Peter Moran visited here in 1879 and 1880. Even then, Moran had to return to his studio in Philadelphia with sketch books and watercolors before rendering the accomplished etchings featured in the Harwood's exhibition.
While printmaking enjoys a rich and varied history that includes such remarkable artists as Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, and William Blake, the process lost stature as an artistic medium when the industrial revolution introduced mechanical means for producing illustrations in multiple copies unimagined by early printmakers. However, the etching revival between 1850 and 1930 helped printmaking gain stature once more in artistic, collecting, and museum curatorial circles.
The first part of the Harwood's exhibition mirrors the revival of printmaking in America and reveals how artists used the medium to interpret Taos through its native peoples, its architecture, and its natural setting. (See prints by Peter Moran, Oscar Berninghaus, E. Martin Hennings, and their colleagues.) After the flourishing of the Taos Society of Artists, others settled in Taos who were trained in the complex techniques of wood engraving, etching, aquatint, and lithography, as evidenced in prints by Joseph Imhof, Howard Cook, Barbara Latham, Kenneth Adams, Ward Lockwood, Gene Kloss, and Doel Reed. Some of these artists were drawn here by majestic mountains and the clarity of the sky, while others responded to a remote community where the synergy of an artists' colony drew them together and where they found subjects of ethnographic and topographic interest.
In time the representational nature of Taos printmaking gave way to more abstract work, as seen the late lithographs by Andrew Dasburg, or the bold prints by Fritz Scholder. By the late 20th century printmakers like Earl Stroh rendered highly accomplished lithographs with the help of master printers who applied sophisticated and complex techniques with ink on metal plates, capturing the intention of the artist. This collaboration between artist and master printer is at the heart of the Tamarind Institute that moved to New Mexico in 1970 and for forty-five years has played a major role in securing the esteem printmaking enjoys today. A number of works in this exhibit were printed at Tamarind, including the latest lithograph by Gendron Jensen, Dénouement.
Pressing Through Time at The Harwood Museum of Art explores multiple attributes of the prints contributing to the history of art in Taos. By their nature, prints are considered one of the most democratic of arts because they are produced in multiples, yet, in a limited edition (by the hand of the artist or under the artist's close supervision). Prints are thus more affordable than a unique painting. This exhibition also explores different techniques for printmaking. Some of these are complex, like aquatints, while others are more straightforward, as with silkscreens. Finally, we touch on the role of Taos as a crossroad for artists drawn here by multiple forces ranging from Native American settlements to personal connections or in search of the proximity of high desert country to majestic mountains.
Other venues for Pressing Through Time will include different prints by artists you will see here, as well as work by other artists not included at the Harwood. (See prints at the E.L. Blumenschein Home and Museum, the Millicent Rogers Museum, and the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.) Another component of Pressing Through Time is work by printmakers living in Taos today. Their prints were selected by a nationally recognized panel of jurors and can be seen at the Encore Gallery of the Taos Center for the Arts and the Fechin Studio on the grounds of the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House. Go to this web site for a complete list of the museums and private galleries in town -- all participating in a collaboration to offer the first major exhibition devoted to the long history of printmaking in Taos.
David Farmer and Bob Parker
Pressing Through Time Co-Curators