Graphics Revolution: New Directions in Printmaking

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Graphics Revolution: New Directions in Printmaking
3490/5590 T, Th, 9:05-12:05 W248
Jenny Schmid

This class expands on traditional ideas of printmaking to embrace the digital original, which has many potential outputs, from t-shirts to manual fine art prints to animation. Students will develop a body of work and experiment with technologies from all eras to find many manifestations of their ideas. There will be practical demonstrations on how to integrate old and new print technologies. We will discuss the present state of graphic arts and the relationship of printmaking to its closest cousins- animation, comics, pop culture and revolutionary applications. Exploring this diversity of media and purposes facilitates discussion around the present state of the multiple, its distribution and potential audience.

A digital archive of images allows for infinite physical and digital reproduction, but more dynamic is the journey through different forms, from the hand printed to motion graphics. This class will address print media in a contemporary way, with the idea of the digital being a record of potential multiplicity that allows for printmaking to enter an expansive new territory. We will put aside notions of high-brow or low-brow, fine or commercial, instead considering the recent explosion of print media, from rock posters to 'zines and local emerging print studio collaborations.

As graphic images permeate our culture, contemporary artists freely incorporate work from a range of sources, highbrow and lowbrow. (Joseph Velazquez of Drive by Printmaking refers to this as "Unibrow"). Tattoo art, street art, scrimshaw and other graphic histories are some examples of quoted influences that contribute to contemporary artists creating paintings, prints, tattoos, murals and t-shirts as part of their body of work.

As printmaking embraces digital applications, the discipline itself has started to incorporate new media and the lines have blurred as to where definitions of the medium ends. In 2010, the city-wide exhibition in Philadelphia "Philagrafika" was a barometer of the present state of the field. Curated by Jose Roca, curator of the Sao Paulo biennial, this event included over 300 international artists in 80 venues.

The New York Times reported on the exhibit: "As new mediums proliferate and lines between genres dissolve, you may wonder if there is any value in maintaining printmaking as a separate artistic category. The festival's chief overseer, José Roca, an independent curator from Colombia, does not equivocate about what he sees as the demise of the traditional print. In his introductory essay in the festival guidebook he asserts, "Fixated on defining the realm of printmaking based on technique, some printmakers have printed themselves into a corner, away from the center of contemporary artistic trends."

Mr. Roca's mission is to expand -- indeed to explode -- received definitions: "Exposing the print component in sculptural, environmental, performance, pictorial and video works and highlighting their relevance to contemporary art" is his goal."

Although Walter Benjamin's seminal work "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" considers the aura of the original and reflects on the reproduction and its role in culture, digital applications have changed the conversation. Artists are working conceptually with the many permutations of one image and its ability to move freely between technologies from different eras. This has naturally led to printmakers to expand their practice to more of a graphic arts definition, which also incorporates animation and video.

Artist and Print Educator Hugh Merrill explains the progress a graphic image can make through media: "If I start with a simple figure drawing on a sheet of notebook paper, the image when scanned can be resized and reworked to become collage material for a mixed media painting. The images become a thumbnail on a web site, a photographic positive transferred to an etching plate a litho stone or silkscreen. During a community art project the image is again re-configured and printed out and installed as a billboard. It becomes an exhibition announcement, a birthday card, or an Absolute Vodka ad. The digital life of the image insures its existence as resource, information, data, common chatter, animation, extruded sculptural form, commercial, community or art communication. New media is not bound by traditional aesthetics, but is brain culture, a synapse of possibilities and functions."

Media Demonstrations (Depending on student experience)
Cintiq tablet, Use of the computer for a print-based compositional tool; Screenprinting, Vector images, stop motion animation and flip books, Polymer plates and letterpress printing, vinyl cutter, Registration between digital and hand-printing methods; laser cutter/CNC router relief and intaglio blocks; high resolution scanning, printing shirts, stickers and other ephemera, digital chine colle, live projection animation, etc.

Most (if not all) instructions for computer applications can be accessed online and students are asked to use these phenomenal resources (often provided by generous strangers) for specific media help on their projects. You are not required to have previous mastery of computers but please be vocal about your needs and help your fellow students as problems come up.

Artists Considered
Vik Muniz, Oscar Munoz, Carlos Amorales, Rafael Trellis, Nicola Lopez, Christiane Baumgartner, William Kentridge, Virgil Marti, Betsabee Romero, Tromarama, Aesthetic Apparatus, Nathan Melz, Nick Conbere, Ben Brockman, Sandow Burke, Biafra Inc., Duke Riley, Swoon, etc.

The goal of this class is to prepare you to be an artist by developing your technical and intellectual skills as well as an awareness of the contemporary applications of printmaking and the current discussions that surround this unique art form. You are absolutely expected to be self-motivated in this class and participate in discussions! No exceptions.

We will have a variety of projects that combine printmaking and digital media. Students are asked to have work up for every critique. You will be graded on your creativity, content and craft. I will meet with students individually at mid-term to talk about their work. The purpose of this class is to see how the multiple can flow through different media- so making every project have some personal relevance and be part of your overall interest is essential.

More than three absences will drop your grade significantly, with more than 6 unexcused absences result in an F. You must be here for final meeting days and have work finished for scheduled critiques. You must actively participate in discussions and give critical feedback to your colleagues. You are required to be safe in the print studio and protect yourself from toxics. Please also do not prop doors in computer labs and be aware of safety issues.

The print studio closes on the last day of instruction for cleaning and organization.
Print Shop Hours: 7 am - 11 pm, closed to undergrads on Sundays
To work in the print shop after 11pm, acquire a late-night pass in advance and there must always be at least two people working in the shop. The late pass is valid between 11 pm and 2am. The vents in the studio turn off at 2 am, and EVERYONE must leave the studio at this time. ESCORT SERVICE: 624-WALK

If you would like to work during another class you are required to ask permission from the instructor. Please be quiet during other classes' work time. Information and readings will be available online on the class blog and you will also be asked to participate in discussion and post links to projects on the blog.

Project #1 Flip Book- Screenprint cover, Xerox interior, book assembly, GIF animation & screenprint stickers.

I will provide white paper and sticker paper for this project but you will need primary screen ink colors, which you can share (we provide black and white) and please have an apron/shirt for messy printing and containers for color mixing. We also will provide screens for your respectful use. If you do tear/ruin a screen, we will require you to buy a new piece of screen mesh from the crib.

Today: Intro to the class content. Assign drawers, print studio tour, various rooms/equipment we might use- eStudio, DSB, the crib, etc.

For Thursday: Please have a sketchbook and brainstorm five ideas for the flipbook or bring in sources to scan/collage. I will show examples and we will talk about using computers to develop your project, digital positives and hand-printing!

For an example of a very successful flip book project from this class check out Alex Newby's work:

Class Blog
You are on the class blog! Be sure you can comment on it after I have set everyone up.
Please also sign up for a Tumblr blog if you don't have one already, so that you can link stop motion and other work images to the blog. This is one of the few sites that allow for .gifs. (Although they publicly announced that we pronounce this as jiff, I will always use the hard g pronunciation).

Other web sources: Media Mill for storing and linking gifs and videos
Please set up an account right away by emailing

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