In 1959, young Kathan Brown stepped off of a freighter in San Francisco with an antique intaglio press and expert printing skills to match. Freshly trained in the French hand-wiping technique of intaglio printing (which, she frequently notes, differs in its precision from the expressive approach then dominating American color etching) at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, Brown possessed tireless dedication to her chosen medium. She remains today a self-proclaimed “proselytizer for etching” (e-mail interview) and this passion has guided both her professional activities as well as that of her press. It also transformed the history of intaglio printmaking.
The art scene in the Bay Area was small but robust when she opened Crown Point for business in a Richmond storefront in 1962. In addition to a handful of professional museums and galleries, there were a number of important artists on faculty at the newly renamed San Francisco Art Institute (formerly the California School of Fine Arts); among the most prominent of these was Richard Diebenkorn. As luck would have it, he was looking for a technique that could provide a fresh perspective to his work and decided to further explore drypoint, a medium in which he had previously dabbled. He had heard about Crown Point’s weekly life drawing sessions, where participants drew directly on a metal plate with a needle, and called Brown to join the group. The printing did not interest him (it was a task he happily assigned to Brown), but the challenge of working on the reflective and unwieldy surface did. After awhile, Brown offered some prepared plates for his use in the studio. The result was the press’s first publication, 41 Etchings Drypoints, issued in 1965 in an edition of 25, which began a long relationship between printer and painter that endured nearly three decades until Diebenkorn’s death, producing some of the most astounding color aquatints of our time, including Large Bright Blue, 1980, Green, 1986, and High Green, versions I and II, 1992.
Our latest Exclusive video is now live! Click to watch Robert Mangold: Town & Country on Art21.org.
Filmed at Robert Mangold’s upstate New York home and studio in 2011, the artist describes his experiences living and working in New York City in the early 1960s as well as his decision to move to the country later that decade. Mangold’s shift from the city to the country is reflected in his work including the series Walls and Areas (1963) and Curved Areas (1968). Robert Mangold and his wife, painter Sylvia Plimack Mangold, provided images from their personal archive for this video.
Robert Mangold translates the most basic of formal elements—shape, line, and color—into paintings, prints, and drawings whose simplicity of form expresses complex ideas. He renders the surface of each canvas with subtle color modulations and sinewy, hand-drawn graphite lines. Mangold works in multiple series of shaped canvases over many years, exploring variations on rings, columns, trapezoids, arches, and crosses, and compositions without centers.
Robert Mangold is featured in the Season 6 (2012) episode “Balance” of the Art in the Twenty-First Century program on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via Art21.org, PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Roger Phenix. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Robert Mangold. Archival Images Courtesy: Al Held Foundation, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold. Photography: John Sherman. Theme Music: Peter Foley.
In each of our new season 6 episodes, not to mention throughout the entire Art21 series, there are superb quotes to share with students, colleagues and friends as kickstarters for discussions, assignments- even as a way to challenge assumptions we make in our work as artists and educators. This week I want to highlight a few quotes from the Balance episode and reflect on some of what each quote can inspire or teach, even across disciplines. During the summer I will then revisit the “Kickstarters” posts to focus on other quotes from the remaining episodes.
I don’t think of myself as being a landscape painter. In the popular envisioning of that term, a landscape consists of a painting with a field and a pond and a tree and a mountain in the distance, etc. It’s a sort of recipe thing. I hope very much that my paintings don’t look like recipe paintings, that I’ve gone to other places and seen something different. – Rackstraw Downes
What I like most about this quote is that Downes reminds us that he goes to “other” places for inspiration, which is essentially what we ask of our students on a regular basis. He makes clear that he has seen “something different” and wants to share this vision. He also gets to remove the box that a description like “landscape painter” may very well put him in. As teachers, we want our students to look beyond the obvious and at details in order to make sense of the complexity that comes with seeing a bigger picture. We want them to cultivate an individuality that steers clear of most labels.
I like setting up problems for the viewer and that viewer isn’t someone detached from me. I’m the viewer. I’m the first viewer. – Robert Mangold
The power of using this quote by Robert Mangold comes from re-visioning who the “viewer” actually is. If the artist is the first viewer then the effect a work has on the artist can inform how to shape the work for others to experience. Mangold also emphasizes “setting up” problems and intentionally giving himself something to figure out in order to learn something new. Think about how different some assignments would be if we simply asked, “So what kind of problem are you setting up for yourself here?”
My whole body of work has this kind of flexible, mutable quality. It has the rawness of a studio, or the rawness of a laboratory where things could happen, where things could fall apart. – Sarah Sze
As Sarah Sze discusses her work, she spotlights how many artists today are making art that is elastic in some way. But she is also talking about taking risks, which we emphasize is a big part of learning in all disciplines. Taking a chance where in fact things CAN fall apart simultaneously holds the promise of, “What can we learn if it doesn’t?”
Until next week…
It’s official: “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” the Peabody Award-winning biennial television series, is returning to PBS this April for a sixth season. The new season premieres nationally on PBS on Friday, April 13 at 9:00 p.m. (ET).
The new season features artists Marina Abramović, Ai Weiwei, David Altmejd, El Anatsui, assume vivid astro focus, Lynda Benglis, Rackstraw Downes, Glenn Ligon, Robert Mangold, Catherine Opie, Mary Reid Kelley, Sarah Sze, and Tabaimo across four episodes.
We will be posting additional previews, resources, features, and more throughout the weeks leading into broadcast. Be sure to join us on Facebook and Twitter—and keep an eye on the Art21 website—to catch the latest on Season 6.
In the meantime, check out the season trailer and episode listing below, and please feel free to let us know what you think about the new season in the comments!