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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

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DEC 19-JAN 20 Issue
Critics Page

Carroll Dunham

Carroll Dunham, <em>Tree 1</em>, 2009. Lithograph in 7 colors on Arches Cover White paper, 25 1/2 x 20 1/8 inches. Courtesy ULAE.
Carroll Dunham, Tree 1, 2009. Lithograph in 7 colors on Arches Cover White paper, 25 1/2 x 20 1/8 inches. Courtesy ULAE.

Bill Goldston introduced me to printmaking in late 1983 by inviting me to come out to the studio at ULAE and explore lithography. I know this was life-changing, but I can’t remember very well what I was thinking at the time. I know I was curious to experience the atmosphere of such a revered place and to see what sort of different perspectives these people called “master printers” might have that could help me see different ways forward for my work. It was the beginning of a more-or-less continuous involvement with printmaking that remains ongoing.

I really have no idea what my paintings would have become without this experience. Every aspect of the process and culture around printmaking has influenced my approach to my painting, but these three factors stand out:

  1. The material substrate that images use to reveal themselves can vary greatly, and each new physical approach unveils something different about the nominal subject. None of these incarnations are necessarily deeper or more true than the others, and they are all connected through some underlying mental reality.
  2. Painting, at least as I practice it, is a solitary and slow activity, providing continuous opportunities to doubt one’s self, procrastinate, and indulge in circular thinking about others not physically present. And it can get lonely. Working in a print studio with people one likes who know valuable things one doesn’t know one’s self, and who at least appear to be eager to help with the realization of one’s ideas…this was and is a godsend to me, and has made my alone-time in my studio much more bearable, providing numerous new angles of entry for my ruminations.
  3. In a time of toxic image and information saturation, printmaking puts “digital matters” in a context with other technologies that were once highly disruptive themselves. It has an ability to continually absorb and re-purpose pretty much any way of making something (the original technology for engraving was developed by armor makers).

Lastly there is no good reason to make prints other than love. While that is generally a good reason to do anything, the widespread misunderstanding that printmaking is about “reproduction”’ or is somehow less than “original,” often triggers questions about why one would spend time this way. One is tempted to reply: “If you have to ask…”


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues