Friday, May 16, 2008


This fairly anonymous-looking stairwell could be from just about any gallery. I noticed it for its pleasing generic-ness, but it belongs to the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea where I saw a fantastic show of Donald Judd woodcut prints that were touted in their advertising as "rare". Well, it turns out they are kind of rare, in more ways than one, although my efforts to get a decent photo of them had questionable results. These are very early efforts, though already clearly in the minimal vein, save for the very earliest, which has some playful pictorial things happening that could conjure most anyone except Judd. One thing I actually appreciated seeing in these was the lack of slick perfection that came to dominate printmaking for so long. It seemed clear that the prints were printed by the artist himself, and when I asked the gallery assistant if that were the case, I learned that yes, he had printed them with the help of his father, who had been a woodworker. Okay, so there was a smudge or two here and there at the margins of these: this show gave me a chance to think some new thoughts about something I felt I was pretty familiar with. Some of these thoughts revolved around time, and its effects on artworks themselves. Seeing silhouettes of oil leeching from printed lines to the surrounding paper is commonplace for engravings, and older prints; we get used to it and don't really notice it so much. But here, a large area of oil seepage is found on all of these prints, and I couldn't help thinking that someone who might not know what it was could take it for an element of the image. Which, I guess, it now is. Whether it is a detriment to the print is a question for paper conservators, I guess...

No comments: