International Women’s Day: celebrating female artists

Anni Albers at the artist’s studio, Tyler Graphics Ltd, Bedford Village, New York, 1976. Photographer: Betty Fiske

On the eve of International Women’s Day, what better time to celebrate and recognise the significant achievements of the women artists represented in the Tyler Collection. Of the collection’s 77 artists, only 6 are female – in part a reflection of an art world long dominated by men. However, while they may have been outnumbered by their male contemporaries, these women – Anni Albers, Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Graves, Joan Mitchell, Altoon Sultan and Gina Tomao – were not overshadowed. They share an unwavering commitment to the visual arts and have left legacies of innovation and creativity. Below, we take a closer look at three of them:

Anni Albers (1899-1994) first collaborated with Ken Tyler at Gemini GEL in 1970, having recently discovered printmaking after a career in weaving spanning 40 years. A student of the Bauhaus and long-time teacher at Black Mountain College, Albers was unequivocally modern in her approach to art and design, establishing herself as one of the most influential textile designers of the 20th century. She brought to printmaking the same eye for order, balance and beauty as she did textile design, creating numerous graphic editions in which she explored relationships of form and colour in geometric abstractions.

Helen Frankenthaler painting on wood panels for preliminary image for Tales of Genji III, Tyler Graphics, Mount Kisco, New York, 1995. Photographer: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) emerged as one of the key second generation Abstract Expressionist painters with the development of her unique ‘soak stain’ technique, in which she thinned oil paint with turpentine and painted with the diluted wash directly onto unprimed canvas. In an art scene dominated by men the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Frankenthaler’s unique creative vision was widely celebrated. Never one to shy from a challenge, Frankenthaler joined Tyler in 1977 to translate her language of abstraction into print. Read Ken Tyler’s personal account of working with Frankenthaler here.

187875 Nancy Graves (1939-1995) worked at Tyler Graphics in 1977 and 1981, completing several hand-coloured multimedia prints and a series of monoprints. Graves is known for her cross-disciplinary approach to art making, combining the visual and natural world in media such as drawing, painting, print, installation, sculpture and film. She was the first woman artist to have a solo retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art and was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany – ‘Nancy Graves project & special guests’

For more information on other female artists in the collection see our website.

Direct from the source: Ken Tyler on Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein: Pop remix may have shut its doors but for those interested in the Pop master and his working methods, there’s more! Ken Tyler and Marabeth Cohen-Tyler’s visit to the National Gallery of Australia in July last year presented a significant opportunity to learn more about Roy Lichtenstein and his print projects direct from Tyler, the master printer with whom he had a long and fruitful collaboration. Video and audio content captured during this visit is now available on the website, giving audiences access to a first-hand perspective on Lichtenstein and the Tyler workshops.

In conjunction with the opening of Pop remix, Ken presented a rich and insightful lecture elucidating his experiences of working with the artist, fondly titled ‘Reflections on Roy the happy art maker 1969-1994’. Audio and supporting material from this lecture can be accessed here.

   

A highlight of Pop remix was undoubtedly the 1976 Entablature series of mixed-media prints in which Lichtenstein put classical architectural elements through his own unique Pop Art filter. Produced over two years, the series incorporates screenprinting, lithography, collage and embossing and represents the pinnacle of technical complexity in Lichtenstein’s collaboration with Tyler and the staff at Tyler Graphics. In the video below, Ken outlines some of the many challenges the team encountered during the making of these ground-breaking prints.

Happy New Year!

We can hardly believe that 2014 has arrived! Team Tyler had a wonderfully busy, productive year in 2013. Roy Lichtenstein: Pop remix travelled to the red centre of Australia, opening at Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs in April. In an emphatic end to its successful national tour, the exhibition returned to the National Gallery of Australia in July, where it has been on display since. The opening night – a buzzing, Pop-inspired party with vodka POPtails, WHAAM burgers, and Ray Ban-toting waiters – was made all the more memorable thanks to the presence of Ken Tyler and Marabeth Cohen-Tyler, who travelled from the U.S. especially for the occasion. During his visit to the Gallery Ken also delivered an insightful public lecture illuminating his collaboration with Roy Lichtenstein, which spanned a 30 year period.

 

Assistant Curator Emilie Owens went to Dundee in Scotland for the 8th Impact International Printmaking Conference, where she presented a paper on the collection’s rare film and sound archive. Along with other eager NGA staff we visited Megalo Print Studio for demonstrations of lithography, etching, screenprinting and relief. We welcomed Julia Greenstreet to her new role as Curatorial Assistant for the Kenneth Tyler Collection, added to the website’s ‘Team’ page, digitised hundreds of artworks, archival photographs and film, displayed important collection items such as David Hockney’s A diver from the ‘Paper pools’ series in the International Galleries, and in the children’s exhibition Word pictures. However there were also occasions for sadness, as we learnt of the deaths of artists Anthony Caro and Sam Amato.

Looking ahead to 2014, it’s bound to be another jam-packed year. Pop remix closes at the end of the month (if you haven’t seen it yet then come by for a visit!), after which it will have a chance to rest before travelling to venues in Asia. Major projects include a new exhibition drawn from the collection to be opened mid-year (watch this space for the big reveal in the next couple of months), researching and writing a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, as well as further enriching the website and engaging with audiences on social media.

We hope everyone has had a wonderful, restful break and we look forward to sharing more of the collection and all things print with you as the year unfolds.

Paper: the next frontier

Following our recent look at Anthony Caro’s paper sculptures produced at Tyler Graphics we wanted to discuss the importance of papermaking in Tyler’s workshops and the innovative ways in which handmade papers were used. As this story spans almost four decades we’ve just touched on a few things here and hope to explore it further in the new year with a dedicated ‘paper page’ on our website.

Upon opening his own workshop in 1965, Tyler began a long and involved investigation into handmade paper. The American ‘print renaissance’ of the 1960s – which saw graphics increase in both complexity and size – necessitated a more diverse range of paper that could accommodate the needs of the new generation of prints. True to his reputation as an innovator, Tyler played a key role in researching and developing new papers and creative ways of using them.

It became clear to Tyler that if prints were going to gain recognition as significant contemporary works, they needed to be produced on a scale to rival that of painting. Robert Rauschenberg’s Booster of 1967 added urgency to Tyler’s ‘paper chase’, requiring sheets of sufficient size to print a life-size X-ray image of the artist. Tyler initially looked to American industry for the solution, but when this proved fruitless (due to poor commercial return), he cast his eye further afield towards European paper mills. It was at Arjomari Prioux, a fine art paper manufacturer in Epinal, France that Tyler discovered continuous rolls of mouldmade paper which could be cut to size. The prohibitive costs of importing such products made this a short-term solution only, and prompted Tyler to forge connections with paper makers closer to home – such as John Koller of HMP – before setting up his own facilities.

                    

A particularly significant milestone in Tyler’s handmade paper journey occurred in August 1973. Inspired by his previous visits to France, Tyler decided to hire a paper mill and take an artist with him to embark on his first major foray into papermaking. Who better to collaborate with Tyler on this project than Rauschenberg, who ‘could invent on the spot, had a lot of ideas and loved the challenge’[1]? Furthermore, as a darling of the American art scene, Rauschenberg had the necessary clout to fuel publicity around the project.

And so, Rauschenberg, Tyler and a small team from Gemini GEL visited the 14th century Richard de Bas paper mill, nestled in the picturesque countryside of southern France, with the aim of producing a body of work over the course of four days. Rauschenberg brought two key ideas with him, to ‘allow the form to become the print’ and to ‘paint in paper’.[2] The resultant Pages and Fuses series of works are highly experimental investigations into the possibilities of paper pulp. Composed of natural fibres, the Pages were created by pouring pulp directly onto the mesh in a free-flowing form, or by using shaped moulds that had been made by a tinsmith to Rauschenberg’s specifications. The artist then embedded rags and string in the wet pulp to add further texture.

In contrast to the subtle neutrals of the five Pages, the Fuses burst with vibrant colour, imparted by concentrated Swiss dyes. Clashing the handmade with the commercial, Rauschenberg incorporated magazine imagery printed on Japanese tissue onto the surface of the wet pulp, such as a bird and telegraph pole in Link.

The success of the Richard de Bas project triggered a renewed interest in handmade paper across America, in what has been dubbed ‘the paper revolution’[3] of the 1970s. A crucial shift was occurring in the way that paper was perceived by the artistic community: it would no longer be limited to its traditional supporting role, but rather was embraced as an independent medium.

A lovely photo album full of candid shots documenting Tyler and Rauschenberg’s time in France was put together by fellow collaborator and master papermaker Marius Peraudeau. Here are a few pages for you!

    

    

With the establishment of Tyler Graphics in 1974, papermaking became a key focus of the workshop’s activities. The garage at Bedford Village was converted into a paper studio, kitted out with a beater, press, couching table, plastic pails, rubber aprons and gumboots. Here, Tyler collaborated on major paper pulp projects with Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland and David Hockney, wherein the very substance of paper was transformed into unique works of art.

Interest in handmade paper snowballed and the activities of the workshop soon outgrew the garage-cum-paper studio. A custom-built paper mill at Mount Kisco superseded it and spectacular projects with artists such as James Rosenquist and David Hockney followed. We look forward to investigating these in future posts!


[1] Quoted in Pat Gilmour, Ken Tyler: Master Printer and the American Print Renaissance, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1986, p.87.

[2] Quoted in Pat Gilmour and Anne Willsford, Paperwork, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1982, p.49.

[3] Pat Gilmour, Ken Tyler: Master Printer and the American Print Renaissance, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1986, p.88.

David Hockney: art and technology

David Hockney has always pushed the limits of technology in his art and his latest exhibition David Hockney: a bigger exhibition at the de Young in San Francisco contains works that clearly demonstrate this tendency. In addition to more traditional media, the exhibition includes example of paintings that Hockney created using the ‘Brushes’ application on his iPad, as well as digital films displayed over multiple screens. You can see some examples of this kind of work on Hockney’s website: http://www.hockneypictures.com/home.php.

Long before the iPad, way back in 1988, Hockney was experimenting with the then cutting-edge-technology of the fax machine as a means of printmaking. The NGA’s Tyler Collection contains over 200 faxes sent by Hockney to Ken Tyler in the years 1988-89. The faxes range from mischievous musings:

to portraits of friends, both human and animal:

Complex images made up of sixteen or more sheets, similar to his later panel paintings – like the NGA’s A bigger Grand Canyonwere sent with a key showing how to assemble the overall image: a kind of jigsaw puzzle for the recipient.

Key

Abstract landscape

Check out our website for more on David Hockney: http://bit.ly/IeAOkJ

Anthony Caro, 1924-2013

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It is with regret that we report the death of Anthony Caro, who passed away on October 23 at the age of 89. Caro was one of the great modernist sculptors; an artist whose explorations of space, form and materials continued throughout his distinguished career.

Caro was best known for his abstract sculptures in steel and other metals. Duccio variations no.7 – a generous donation to the American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia by Ken and Marabeth Tyler – is currently on display in the NAB Sculpture Gallery. A monumental work in sandstone and steel, the sculpture is one of seven created as a response to Duccio’s The Annunciation in association with the Encounters exhibition staged by the National Gallery, London in Summer 2000.

As well as his work in metal, Caro explored the medium of paper pulp at Tyler Graphics Ltd. Caro enjoyed working with paper pulp as it allowed him “…to get closer to the graphic idea, to painting ideas and away from being so sculptural.” By manipulating sheets of Tyler’s handmade paper while still damp, Caro created soft, undulating curves which he embellished with intaglio printing processes, drawing and painting. The resulting works are delicate explorations of the sculptural possibilities of paper that blur the boundaries between painting, drawing and sculpture.

The Gallery has recently received a thoughtful donation of one such sculpture – #4 Big white – by Penelope Seidler AM. This work is a significant addition to the Gallery’s International Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books Department and exemplifies a unique moment in Caro’s oeuvre. The piece will complement three sculptural pieces from the paper pulp series held in the Kenneth Tyler Printmaking Collection.

Below you will find a series of links to articles and tributes that chronicle the life of this extraordinary artist:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/arts/design/anthony-caro-sculptor-who-discovered-a-path-to-abstraction-dies-at-89.html?_r=0

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/24/sir-anthony-caro-dies

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24654484

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/10401828/Sir-Anthony-Caro-British-sculptor-dies-aged-89.html

Remembering Walasse Ting

In 1964 Roy Lichtenstein was joined by 27 of his contemporaries in contributing lithographic illustrations to One Cent Life, a volume of poems by Walasse Ting. Visitors to Roy Lichtenstein: Pop remix have the rare opportunity to view sections of this significant publication, in which Ting’s ‘raunchy Pidgin English’[1] is united with the work of key artists including Joan Mitchell, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Ting, a Chinese-American poet, printer and painter, produced several illustrated portfolios over the course of his career; however One Cent Life stands apart for bringing together European and American artists working within disparate frameworks, effectively signposting the seismic shift occurring at the time from the dominance of Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art.

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193688_b_193691_a

Pages from “1 Cent Life” by Walasse Ting, 1964, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1983. Top left: Roy Lichtenstein. Top right: Robert Rauschenberg
Bottom left: Jim Dine. Bottom right: Claes Oldenburg

Born in 1929, Ting was raised in Shanghai where he studied briefly at the Shanghai Art Academy. The young artist left China in 1949 before settling in Paris for a six year period, during which he met members of the avant-garde group COBRA. When Ting arrived in New York in 1958, Abstract Expressionism was in full swing and he quickly immersed himself in the buzzing American art scene, painting large gestural canvases and meeting artists who would come to have a great influence on his work, such as Sam Francis.

Following a recommendation by Francis, Ting worked at Tamarind Lithography Workshop as an Artist-fellow from September to October 1964, producing two lithographic suites, Fortune Kookie and Hollywood Honeymoon. It was during this period that Ting met Kenneth Tyler, Tamarind’s then Technical Director. Tyler recalls that Ting ‘showed me his poetry publications and gave me a verbal window to Paris printmaking. This was my first exposure to contemporary artists from NYC and Europe. I gleamed a great deal from all of them when we met outside of work.[2] A lasting friendship formed between the two, with Ting one of a number of artists who encouraged Tyler to open his own workshop.[3]

Image

Tamarind’s Technical Director Kenneth Tyler, with Artist-fellow Walasse Ting, in front of Ting’s lithographic suite, 1964. Image courtesy Tamarind Institute Collection, Center for Southwest Research, General Library, University of New Mexico.

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James Rosenquist and Walasse Ting at Wetterling Teo Gallery, Singapore, at the opening of ‘James Rosenquist: Paintings,’ 1994. Photo: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler

In memory of Ting, who sadly passed away in 2010, and inspired by the inclusion of One Cent Life in Roy Lichtenstein: Pop remix, Ken and Marabeth Tyler have kindly gifted three of his unique publications to the Tyler collection: My Shit and My Love (1961), Hot and Sour Soup (1969) and Fresh Air School (1972-73).

Within the pages of the latter – an exhibition catalogue of paintings by Ting, Francis and Mitchell – Ting condensed his remarkable life into the following autobiographical passage:

WALASSE TING by WALASSE TING

Born in Shanghai, China, 1929
4 years old paint in sidewalk. 10 years
old draw on wall. 20 years old left
China to traveling after reading the
book of I-Ching. In 1953 arrived in
Paris. Six months later meet Pierre
Alechinsky. Six months later meet
Asger Jorn. Six months later meet
Karel Appel; drink coffee with them
in Paris-Café. Working all kinds of job
to making a very simple living. Living
in a six inches window room. Paint
there, eat there. In 1963 arrived in
New York City. Six months later meet
Sam Francis. Six months later meet
Tom Wesselmann. Six months later
meet Claes Oldenburg. Eat hot & sour
soup with them in Chinese restaurant.
Not working any kinds job. Sleeping
all day living in a sixty feet window
loft. Eat there, paint there. Self-
taught. Individual. Not belong to any
group.


[1] Riva Castleman, A century of artists books, New York : Museum of Modern Art, 1994, p.40.

[2]  Ken Tyler, in correspondence with Jane Kinsman 21 September 2004.

[3] Ken Tyler, in correspondence with Jane Kinsman 21 September 2004.

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