Printmaking occupies a unique position in the art world, bringing together opposing notions of original art and multiples, the hand of the artist and the use of technology, the individual artist and the collaborative nature of working with a master printer. The recent Southeastern Graphics Council International printmaking conference, hosted by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from March 18 to 21, was a celebration of these dichotomies, and a place for dialogue about multifaceted issues.
Keynote speaker Sarah Suzuki, associate curator of drawings and prints at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, noted that although printmakers often feel the need to defend its relevance, she actually sees a “stealth renaissance” of printmaking that is finding its way into all areas of contemporary art. She included “print-specific” work as the more traditional mode of creating hand-pulled editions with such processes as lithography and screen-print, and “print-related” work as that which takes on a broader context, usually as a component of larger mixed-media, installation, or video works. Tabaimo and Wade Guyton are among the artists given as examples. This kind of work stretches our concept of what a print can be.
At the conference, Suzuki curated a show called “CONTROL+P: Printmaking in the 21st Century by University of Tennessee Alumni,” which displayed a wide range of printmaking methods and contemporary concerns. There were exhibitions throughout the UT art department and in downtown Knoxville, including a survey of work by SGCI printmaker emeritus Ruth Weisberg from Southern California, an artist, educator, and writer who was honored for her vital role in advancing print theory. Down the street at Pioneer House, a portfolio of 35 prints called “Tease It to Jesus, “organized by
Smokey Road Press of Athens, Georgia, paid a lively visual tribute to Dolly Parton. It created a buzz around town and was eventually featured on Huffington Post. Many other themed portfolios were on view, which was one of the highlights of the weekend. Artwork was also installed outdoors around town as part of the “Prints in Peculiar Places” project, which activated a variety of marginal urban spaces.
SGCI has Southern roots, beginning in 1972 as the Southern Graphics Council, created by Boyd Saunders from the University of South Carolina with the intention of supporting printmakers and other artists in related graphic fields. Now known as SGC International, the organization holds an annual printmaking conference that includes exhibitions, panel discussions, artist presentations, technical demonstrations, and a vendor fair. It is a feast of printmaking, ranging from academic and scientific concerns to performances and playful projects.
The exciting news locally is that the conference will be coming to Atlanta in March 2017 (after being hosted in Portland, Oregon, next year.) SGCI approached Atlanta about being a host city because of the growing reputation of printmaking activity in the metro area, and the arts community overall. Kennesaw State University will be a primary organizer, along with SCAD-Atlanta, Georgia State University, and the Atlanta Printmakers Studio. Many other institutions and galleries will also participate.
If you can’t wait until 2017, the Atlanta Print Biennial takes place this November, and will showcase top contemporary printmakers from around the world. This is the third international biennial organized by Atlanta Printmakers Studio, and will be hosted by Kai Lin Art. Acclaimed printmaker Art Werger, from Ohio University, will serve as juror.
Terri Dilling is an Atlanta-based painter and printmaker, a Georgia State University alumna, and board president of Atlanta Printmakers Studio.