Printmakers enjoy talking about process and the how-to, but rarely do they speak about the why. As a professional printer at Impressions Workshop in Boston and then at The Printshop in Amsterdam in the early seventies I discovered that many artists strove to develop the one unique image that would make an indelible imprint upon the viewer.
The inevitable result was a brand, a process that often produced blind adherence to a rigidly prescribed formula for producing artwork. Bolstered by vibrant print sales, an atmosphere developed that was consistent with this repetitive formula. Artists who produced prints during this period printed larger editions because the market demanded it. Printing an edition of 100 or more prints was the norm, while a commissioned print could swell to a thousand or more. As a result, an abundance of printed work was published by artists, workshops and galleries until the eventual decline of the era of print workshops and the world-wide financial crisis brought change to the art market. Adherence toward the practice of limitless accumulation was challenged by the political or rather aesthetic counter culture that emerged in response to the mass-oriented, capitalist culture. In some cases printmakers purposefully scaled back on production in order to distant themselves from mainstream art production creating small scale works that appealed to more exclusive, well-informed patrons. Reduced print consumption inevitably led to smaller press runs and a new conceptualizing of the print medium. Labeling original prints as ephemera fed into the narrative that a print is disposable by its very nature. Pondering the current state of the art market and observing the many creative alternatives to the flattened image has become fuel for discovery.
Historic references have also had an impact on my new approach to printmaking. I found inspiration in the late Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers’ sudden change in artistic direction. Disheartened by the lack of attention his newly published novel had received, he placed several copies of his books into a bed of fresh plaster and displayed them on a gallery wall. His continued use of found objects placed his artwork at the forefront of the post-modernist art movement.
My work, Brands Brand, is a quarter-scale model of a Brand Lithography press made from aluminum litho plates that had been printed in 1986. Stored away for thirty years, sealed in gum arabic and rolled up with black litho ink, the aluminum plates retained the original drawn image on its surface. The plate, repurposed, was cut and formed using a metal bending device.
Continuing with the notion of repurposing prints, I proceeded to construct additional work from a storehouse of previously printed lithographs, wetting and gluing the prints together into recognizable forms. For me, it was a way to utilize the scores of prints that had been lying in drawers for many years.
The medium of printmaking is ever-changing, as it is fed by the ongoing introduction of new techniques and processes. But the print is no longer only about the reproduction of imagery using print processes. The matrix is now a starting point for what the print may eventually become. The two-dimensional plane has been altered by the influx of changes and new approaches to the medium. I have been inspired by those who have expanded the language of printmaking, moving beyond traditional approaches, into the 3-dimensional plane.
Bob Tomolillo, born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bob began his career during the burgeoning of the print workshops in 1970. He worked at Impressions Workshop in Boston and the Printshop in Amsterdam, Netherlands as a professional printer. He earned a B.F.A. from University of Massachusetts and M.F.A. from Syracuse University, N.Y. Faculty member at the F.A.W.C. in Provincetown, Mass. and currently serving as secretary for The Boston Printmakers, his lithographs are included in collections at the Rijks Museum, Harvard Art Museums, Seoul Museum of Art and others. In 2009 he was the co-winner of the first Dayton Peace Museums Peace Prize for The Arts. He recently participated in the London Liberal Arts College, “Year of Subversion Exhibition.” He organized an exhibition titled, 2016, A State of Mind, to coincide with the political season, at Lamont Gallery at Phillips Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. His essays on “Art” have appeared in Art in Print, International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Vol. 13 Issue 3, Print Alliance Journal, LAPS Interleaf Journal, Visual Overture and PIF magazine. Other writing has appeared in Literal Minded, Orange Alert, Shine Journal, Askew Reviews, Glossolalia, Creative Writing Now, Blinking Cursor, Bap Q, Lunarosity, Icelandic Review, Writers Billboard , First Writers Magazine, Milspeak, Subterranean Journal, South Jersey Underground , Cavalier Magazine, Yellow Mama, Visual Overture, Vox Poetica, Ascent Aspirations, Bangalore Review, Forum Magazine, 2 River View, The Red Fez, and Spilling Ink Anthology.
Elizabeth Carolyn Miller, Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and Late Victorian Print Culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 5, http://www.questia.com/read/123131651/slow-print-literary-radicalism-and-late-victorian.