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Give Me Ink!

Printmaking is alive and well! The death of paper has yet to happen. According to a discussion this past Sunday at the Baltimore Museum of Art by the guys who run the Printeresting website, R.L Tillman, Amze Evans, and Jason Urban -- kind of the Manny, Moe, and Jack of all things happening in the printed matter genre -- there is a renaissance going on. From Shepard Fairey's Obama Hope poster of the '08 election, the intense banners and signage from the Arab Spring surging through the Middle East, or the Occupy movement -- even giving some hip status to commercial venues such as Anthropology and Levis.

Artists have so many relatively inexpensive possibilities ready for exploitation: woodblock, digital, offset, Kinkos, Staples, or hand squeegeed. Producing fine art limited editions selling for thousands or social statements wheat pasted onto walls and phone poles, printed matter is diverse, democratizing, and thriving.

I've often mentioned my love of ink pressed onto paper, especially if you are lucky enough to have experienced the visceral quality, the smell, as the press rolls over the plate and the paper is peeled away, revealing the outcome for the first time -- it's magic. I first experienced it as a paperboy, watching the huge rolls of blank white newsprint get spun into the NEWS I would deliver.

I later worked in a textile mill where the rolls of paper were replaced with cotton fabric. Instead of current events, the massive machines spewed miles of 4- to 15-color intricate designs onto the fabric. The cloth would later become clothing, bedding or almost anything, a different magic but every bit as mesmerizing.

The Printeresting talk was part of the annual Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair at the Baltimore Museum of Art. A three-day love fest of all things printmaking. There were lectures, parties, and some 20 presses from around the country set up in the BMA's second-floor galleries offering some very good deals on a wide range of printing styles and mediums. New to medium, a seasoned collector, or browser -- the event has something for most everyone. Also in conjunction with the fair there were exhibits at area galleries -- C. Grimaldis and Nudashank -- and a book art mini-fair at Open Space. I have more pictures on my Flickr page.

If you could not attend the fair, there is still an opportunity to purchase a very nice print: "YU, MICA, ME" by artist Trenton Doyle Hancock. The proceeds will be split between the BMA acquisition fund for contemporary prints and MICA's Globe Fund to support artists' residencies. The print was made using the old Baltimore landmark Globe Press's iconic poster style and wood type.

(Swoon image courtesy of Black Heart Press)

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