Warhol at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

My posts about my own prints and about who actually creates the works of art brings to mind a review in the Daily Telegraph last month by Richard Dorment of an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery called “Andy Warhol: The Portfolios” which features 80 of Warhol’s silk screen prints.

The review contains some interesting information about Warhol’s methods:

“Artists were making silkscreened prints long before Warhol came along, but usually as a simple means of reproducing their own work. Warhol made the technique his own by choosing pre-existing images he found in newspapers and magazines and then transferring them onto paper and fabric. He liked the way silkscreened images tend to print out of register, giving them the look of mechanically reproduced photos in tabloid newspapers.

“Having chosen the image, he sent it to a lab, where it was stencilled onto an acetate plate. Warhol then manipulated the acetate with chemicals and scissors to give it the distinctive Warhol “look”. Assistants could and did perform other steps in the process of silkscreening, but only Warhol worked on the acetates. Once he was satisfied, the acetate was transferred onto a meshed screen. In the final step, the printer forced silkscreen ink through the mesh and so transferred the design onto paper…

“Because silkscreening is essentially a mechanical process, it hardly mattered whether Warhol, his assistant, or a commercial printer actually pressed the silkscreen ink through the screen’s mesh. This insight enabled Warhol to set up his factory-like method of art production. It was an especially important factor when it came to print-making because, unlike his paintings, Warhol’s prints were never made in his studio, known as the Factory. He would simply give the acetate to off-site printers with instructions as to the colours to be used and the way he wanted the image printed. Sometimes he only spoke to printers like Rupert Jasen Smith over the telephone and often his directions were vague. “He wanted the prints to be more-something or less-something,” remembered Bob Colacello, editor of Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and an employee from 1970 to 1982, “but he couldn’t say what that ‘something’ was”.

“Though the colours were mixed by the printers, Warhol always refused Jasen Smith’s invitations to supervise the work in progress at the printer’s studio in Tribeca*. After printing the image in many different colour combinations, Jasen Smith brought all the proofs to the Factory where Warhol chose the ones he liked best and selected them for publication. Jasen Smith then printed the edition.”

(* Last year on a visit to New York, I was told the name Tribeca comes from Triangle Below Canal Street but I don’t know if this is true.)

“… it hardly mattered whether Warhol, his assistant, or a commercial printer actually pressed the silkscreen ink through the screen’s mesh…” so does it matter if Hirst doesn’t actually apply the paint to the spots? Does it matter if we never get a satisfactory conclusion to this ongoing saga?

Today’s Torygraph had a review about the Tanks, at the Tate Modern, the “world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works.” The  final paragraph of the review was a gem!

“At the press view, journalists groped and stumbled their way through pitch-dark galleries, asking the guards for directions, bumping into steps, and tripping over low wires. I wanted to be knocked out by the opening exhibition, but not in this way.”


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
This entry was posted in Art, Art Gallery, Artists, exhibition, Print, Printmaking, screenprinting, Works and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Warhol at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

  1. hmmm there’s been a tradition of artists working with master printmakers for many centuries. I have seen Hogarth engravings with the master printmaker’s name on them as well.

  2. Nancy Farmer says:

    I think that the fact that Wharhol’s studio was called ‘the Factory’ says a lot about his way of working! He’s being deliberately provocative and daring people to say it is not art… all the same, I would not find it a pleasing way to work and I would not feel the same authorship of a print if I created them in that way – just does not appeal to me… perhaps that I because i am a bit of a control freak in my own work and also generally bad at delegating!
    Mind you, the putting on of ink onto a silkscreen is maybe quite different to the inking of an etching plate (the kind of prints I make), where the skill of the person wiping the plate can be the difference between a fabulous image and a time-consuming disaster!

  3. seascapesaus says:

    You are being pithy again John! good on you.

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