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Stoned or Impregnated: New York Lithography, ca. 1960
June 3 - August 10, 2008
The William Benton Museum of Art is presentng Stoned or Impregnated: New York Lithography, ca. 1960, an exhibition of works created by artists affiliated with a lithographic workshop called Collectors' Graphics. The artists are interesting; their works are of high quality; and Collectors' Graphics played a role in the rediscovery of lithography in America as an artistic medium for the creation of original works of art. The exhibition runs June 3 through August 10, 2008. (right: Carmen Cicero, Landscape with Airplane, lithograph, no date, 2004.21.27)
Between 1958 and 1960 three lithographic workshops began to re-create lithography as an artistic medium, a departure from post WWII thinking of it as exclusively a commercial medium. ULAE was the first, opening on Long Island in 1958; Collectors' Graphics followed in New York City in late 1959; and Tamarind came together in Los Angeles in 1960. Of the three, Collectors' Graphics had the briefest run, operating only until early 1963, though it had an interesting technical history, and its roster included a mix of artists both well-known and lesser-known.
In 2004, the William Benton Museum of Art received from Jules Sherman, through his son Scott, a selection of lithographs created by Collectors' Graphics artists including John Heliker, Robert Goodnough, Marisol, David Levine, Michael Mazur, Jane Freilicher, Antonio Frasconi, and Paul Resika. Other artists, who were well-known in the 50s if not so well known today, were Reginald Pollack, Jane Wilson, Burt Hasen, Paul Georges, Constantino Nivola, Carmen Cicero, Miller Farr, Harvey Dinnerstein, and Burt Silverman.
The Lithographic Process Developed by Collectors' Graphics
It all started in 1959 when the painter Reginald Pollack (1924-2001), who had learned traditional lithography on stone in Paris after the war, met Jules Sherman, the owner of a commercial lithographic firm in Manhattan. When Pollack expressed interest in continuing to work in lithography, Sherman was a sympathetic partner with a shared vision to provide the means for artists to work in the medium, create original prints with no photomechanical aides, publish them in limited editions at low cost to the collector, and to do so without the artist having to use heavy and cumbersome lithographic stones. Sherman made his commercial workshop available on weekends, providing the tools and means for artists to create their lithographic prints. Their greatest challenge was finding a suitable substitute for the lithographic stone. After many failures, the solution came to Sherman in the night-use a flexible, plastic coated paper that was commercially available although usable only for short runs. Initially the available sheets were not large enough; however, once he had larger sheets, Sherman could give the artists a matrix on which they could draw using any suitable crayon or ink, and from which he could print the image. A multi-colored work was more difficult because each color of the finished print required its own plate. An eight-color work required eight separate plates. The lithographs were printed very slowly on an offset press and, despite a planned edition of 75-100 impressions, the plates frequently failed and the run ended with 50-60 prints. (right: Burt Silverman, Toledo at Nightfall, lithograph, no date, 2004.21.44)
New Technique Praised by Times Critic
Through Reginald Pollack's brother Louis (1921-1970), owner of Peridot Gallery in New York City, Collectors' Graphics had representation for their work at a Madison Avenue gallery. The first group show in May 1961 was reviewed by Stuart Preston of The New York Times:
Collectors' Graphics Unique Affiliation with Sears, Roebuck
Collectors' Graphics was founded not only with artistic goals in mind but with the desire to make limited editions, artistically meaningful and original works of art available at modest prices, around $25 to $30 a print. An interesting sidelight to the latter objective was the occasional connection between Collectors' Graphics and the marketing venture undertaken by Sears, Roebuck and Company and the actor and art collector Vincent Price. Beginning in October 1962 and continuing until 1971, Sears sold through its mail-order catalogue and stores works of art under the rubric of "The Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art." Trading on Price's fame as an actor in movies, including the 1952 horror film The House of Wax, and his penchant for collecting art, Sears offered works of art, framed and guaranteed as original, that Price chose for the company to sell. According to Sherman, on more than one occasion Price bought entire editions of artists' prints from Collectors' Graphics to sell through Sears. It proved to be an interesting and fruitful collaboration between the nation's then-largest retailer and a small lithographic atelier whose ambition was to make art accessible to anyone who wanted it. (right: Michael Mazur, Untitled [Adult Holding a Child with Book], lithograph, no date, 2004.21.31)
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