Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reviews and photos of Close at Blum & Poe

Chuck Close - Lucas, 2011
Jacquard tapestry, 87 x 74 in. Edition of 6

Chuck Close's show of paintings – and three tapestries published by Magnolia Editions – opened at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles on Saturday, and the blogosphere is already responding with enthusiastic reviews and photos.

Daily Du Jour's review paid the tapestries a wonderful compliment, saying:

The exhibition featured his larger than life portraits of fellow artists and himself [...] as well as two black and white woven tapestries, a stunning blend of artistry and technology.

Argot and Ochre was similarly enthusiastic, noting:

Besides the artist himself, the definite crowd pleasers were two tapestries that were hanging in the back room. And it took a minute for me to register that the works were actually made out of thread, since the quality of the rendering was so sharp they looked like photographs with black backgrounds.

Magnolia keeps an archive dating back to 2006 of press reviews and photos of Close tapestries here:

Please check it out for more great reviews and photos! You won't want to miss Close's awesome outfit from the L.A. opening.

Tapestries by Chuck Close at Magnolia Editions

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guercio on the radical creativity of tapestry

Note from Magnolia staff: what follows may appear to be a daunting read, but it's absolutely worth it. Brilliant Milan-based art writer Gabriele Guercio reveals how tapestries got lost in the 18th century beaux-arts system, and makes a strong case for the radical possibilities of genre-defying creativity.

On a day when many in Oakland are feeling radicalized, it's good to remember that artists have been
"esteeming human creativity over and above the material basis of its...outlets" for centuries, regardless of what the so-called authorities have to say about it.

Please read on!

The sharp divide between art and craft has deeply affected tapestry's reputation in the West. Renaissance artists and writers initiated this rift, privileging works in painting and sculpture as the offspring of a liberal practice intermediating between the perceptions of the outside world and the visions of the artist's imagination. The divide was fully achieved, however, only in the eighteenth century with the foundation of the beaux-arts system.

This discrimination between art and craft, artist and artisan, helped to establish the autonomy of works of art. It placed them within a realm of illusion, deliberately aloof from the dynamics of the world and reality at large, by differentiating artistic experience from other experiences and by circumscribing the potentially unlimited manifestations of human creativity to a quantified number of artistic activities. These radical distinctions made tapestry's "artistic" status uncertain. As the beaux-arts gained prestige, the taste for and market value of tapestry waned. No longer a precious collectible, tapestry was valued no more than other household items. Its appeal, when felt, was due to its decorative appearance and versatility.

Subsequent calls for a re-evaluation of tapestry, when they came, often attempted to align it with other supposedly major arts, primarily painting, and thus implicitly ratified the very principles of the modern system that had devalued tapestry in the first place, without esteeming human creativity over and above the material basis of its heterogeneous outlets.

[An] artist's contributions cannot be merely knowledgeable additions to the internal histories of particular arts, nor to the introduction of new mediums. In a world of people on the move, an artist must always stand ready to correlate signs and events, unrestricted introspectiveness and situated energies. These correlations depend not so much on expertise rooted in specialized traditions as on deepening the generic expertise of creativity. Generic creativity is a resource that an artist can rely upon and expand whenever a radical restaging of received procedures and means of expression is felt necessary for cultural, ethical, and political reasons.

- Gabriele Guercio in William Kentridge: Tapestries. Basualdo, Carlos (ed). Yale University Press, CT, 2008.

Tapestries from Magnolia Editions

Monday, October 31, 2011

New Hung Liu edition

Hung Liu - Winter Blossom, 2011
Woodcut with acrylic; 23.25 x 23.5 in. (32.25 x 29.75 in. sheet)
Edition of 25

In Winter Blossom, Hung Liu uses the latest in hybrid digital-analog printmaking technology to summon a mysterious and beautiful figure from China's imperial past.

The face wreathed by plum blossoms and crowned with a tasseled headress in Winter Blossom belongs to Imperial Concubine Zhen Fei, popularly known as "the Pearl Concubine," who died in 1900 at the age of 24.

A lively and independent woman, Zhen was the favorite consort of the Emperor Guangxu, and encouraged his attempts at reform and his interest in foreign languages. The story goes that Zhen also invited foreigners into the Forbidden City to indulge her interest in photography, which explains the extant photographs of Zhen – unusual for an Imperial Consort (and, according to Liu, mostly faked).

Unfortunately, Emperor Guangxu's modernizing attempts to reform China angered the country's de facto ruler, Empress Dowager Cixi. When it was revealed that Zhen had supported the Emperor's coup attempt against the Empress in 1898, Zhen was imprisoned.

Two years later, as the Court fled an invasion of the Forbidden City, Zhen was summoned from prison to meet with Cixi. In a move of backhanded concern, the Empress Dowager ordered that the Pearl Concubine throw herself down a well behind the palace, rather than suffer the fate awaiting her at the hands of invading soldiers. The story is especially unreliable after this point; no one can say for sure how Zhen passed – only that she died during the invasion.

As with the many colorful figures from this period to appear in Liu's work, the historical record of Zhen's life and death is not necessarily to be trusted; over time, legendary tales have assumed the veneer of truth, and many dubious photographs have appeared posthumously. It is fitting, then, that Liu would combine two media to create a print with a shifting surface, wherein Zhen's face is seen as an apparition, partially masked by the black lines of the woodcut.

In fact, Liu based her print on a photograph which historians agree is the actual Zhen – although here again, things are not quite what they seem. "She looks very beautiful," the artist told me, "but the photo is very highly touched up, almost artificially rendered, to the point that it has become a surreal image." Liu added: "Her tragic life makes it even more mysterious."

The artist's sympathy for this unique and forward-thinking young woman is evident throughout Winter Blossom's composition. The ghostly trace of a butterfly sits atop the red tassel on Zhen's headdress (such tassels indicated one's rank in the Imperial court). The branches which encircle her face, Liu explains, are "a certain kind of plum that blossoms in the cold, with flowers like translucent wax." These plum blossoms symbolize both a resilience against the cold and a tragic evanescence. "I offer this image," says Liu, "as a tribute to a short-lived woman about whom we still know very little."

Winter Blossom is a hybrid of two processes, incorporating both traditional and unorthodox printmaking techniques. The image was first cut into a block of wood using a laser, after which further edits were hand-carved by Hung Liu. The woodcut was printed on a Takach etching press using traditional black relief ink; all of the colors in each print (digitally manipulated by the artist) were then registered and printed using a UV-cured acrylic inkjet printer.

Winter Blossom is a limited edition of 25; please contact Magnolia Editions for pricing and availability.

More art by Hung Liu from Magnolia Editions

Friday, October 28, 2011

"What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs?"

...That's what Wired reporter Steve Silberman asks in an absorbing and well-researched blog post over at the Public Library of Science NeuroTribes blog this morning.

Silberman's inquiry is a fascinating read and includes an image of Donald and Era Farnsworth's Tree Thangka I tapestry hanging at Greens restaurant in San Francisco.

The restaurant's aesthetic, says Silberman, was inspired by the same Zen principles that later informed the look of Apple products.

Read the full blog post here.

photo by Donald Farnsworth - click to enlarge

More art by Donald and Era Farnsworth at Magnolia Editions

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chuck Close at Blum & Poe

Chuck Close's first solo show in Los Angeles in almost twenty years, featuring three tapestries (Lucas, shown below, and Roy, both 2011, and Self Portrait/Color, 2007) published by Magnolia Editions! Here's the announcement from the gallery:


is pleased to announce

Chuck Close

October 29 - December 22, 2011

Opening reception: Saturday, October 29, 6-8pm

Chuck Close, Lucas, 2011, Jacquard tapestry, 89 x 74 in. Edition of 6

Blum & Poe is very pleased to present new paintings, prints, and tapestries by Chuck Close. This landmark exhibition is Close's first one-person show with Blum & Poe and represents the most significant body of work assembled in Los Angeles in sixteen years. Featured will be new large-scale oil paintings of artists Kara Walker, Laurie Anderson, and Zhang Huan; works from Close's ongoing self-portrait series; intimately scaled portraits of musician Paul Simon and arts patron Agnes Gund; a collection of prints; and immaculately crafted Jacquard tapestries. The exhibition offers a unique opportunity for viewers to experience Close's stylistic range and technical capacity, while providing a deeper understanding of the human portrait.

Squeak Carnwath & Donald Farnsworth at Sylvia White

Invitation by Squeak Carnwath, created at Magnolia, 2011

Two of Magnolia's most prolific artists will show at the same gallery at the end of this month: Squeak Carnwath and Donald Farnsworth each have a show at Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, CA.

There will be an opening reception Saturday, October 29, from 3-5 pm, at which both artists will be present and Carnwath will sign copies of her exhibition catalog.

In the main gallery, Carnwath's "Painting is No Ordinary Object" features new paintings as well as tapestries and mixed-media multiples published by Magnolia Editions; click here for a sneak peek of the entire show.

In the north gallery, the entire suite of Farnsworth's "Origin: Specimens" will be exhibited; each print in the series combines a chapter from Charles Darwin's seminal On the Origin of Species with a digitally imaged, hyper-realistic rendering of an animal, bird, or insect specimen.

Both shows will run from October 26 - December 3, 2011. The Sylvia White Gallery is located at 1783 E Main St in Ventura and open to the public Wednesday - Saturday from 11 - 5. For more information, please call (805) 643-8300.

spreads from the Origin: Specimens catalog

Friday, October 21, 2011

New work by Guy Diehl

Guy Diehl - Three Pears, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

Contemporary still life virtuoso Guy Diehl recently took home a selection of lithos from two of his 2001 editions, Three Pears and Magnolia Bud with Glass.

Diehl brought the prints back this week and we were floored: each print had been painstakingly hand-colored with a beautifully tempered range of hues. In several cases the pears give off a subtle golden glow that is truly remarkable.

Here is a selection of these unique prints, which will be initially offered at a lowered retail price. This price will rise as the prints sell, so collectors are encouraged to contact us soon to get a terrific deal on these splendidly colorful works.

Guy Diehl - Three Pears, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

Guy Diehl - Three Pears, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

Guy Diehl - Three Pears, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

Guy Diehl - Three Pears, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

Guy Diehl - Magnolia Bud with Glass, 2001/2011
Lithograph with watercolor; unique work from a litho edition of 30
7.75 x 9.5 in.

More art by Guy Diehl from Magnolia Editions

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Chuck Close tapestry edition

Chuck Close - Roy, 2011
Jacquard tapestry, 87 x 74 in. Edition of 6

Magnolia Editions is pleased to announce the publication of Roy, Chuck Close's second tapestry edition of 2011.

There is a subtle irony in Close's hyper-realistic, hyper-detailed, black and white tapestry portrait of famed American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, whose own work memorably used lo-fi Ben-Day dots and bold colors to create images from a minimum of information.

Like Close’s Lucas, a portrait of Lucas Samaras published earlier this year, Roy is translated from a daguerreotype, one of the oldest and most richly detailed forms of early photography. The edition is also woven at a more intimate size than the artist's earlier tapestries, and the detail in its matte surface is due to a higher thread count and a new palette which includes wool fibers for several of the black values in the work.

The unprecedented detail and texture in Roy and Lucas have set a new standard, posing a timely challenge to an art world status quo that appears to have only recently (one might even say grudgingly) begun to accept contemporary textile work as a legitimate medium, just as it admitted so many other scruffy outsiders (lithography, ceramics, et al.) in previous decades. It was only three years ago that Yale professor Carol Armstrong seemed so befuddled by Close's tapestries that she was moved to wonder in the pages of Artforum: "What would possess any self-respecting contemporary artist to turn to such a medium, with its atavistic associations with the High Renaissance?"

Luckily, Armstrong provides part of the answer to her own question later in the article in what she labels "the boundary-crossing haptics of tapestry." Contrasting the haptic (perceiving by touch) with the optic (perceiving by the eye), she discovers "the paradoxical contradictions of making a furred, tactile object out of the uncanny visual precision of the old-fashioned daguerreotype."

What her article neglects to mention is the role of the the digital age as both catalyst and context for these works: in a world of disembodied cloud computing, where digital ones and zeroes are the currency of day-to-day life and many of us touch our phones more than we touch each other, Close's tapestries (woven on a computerised loom from digital weave files) are extraordinary for their canny, perpetual shift between the optic and the haptic, between eye and body, information and sensation.

Works like Roy and Lucas are physical manifestations of a staggering amount of digitized information, writ large in a medium with centuries of connection to the body (you're probably wearing something made of threads as you read this). These tapestries reference the pixelated character of the contemporary digital image, which Close anticipated in his analog grid works of the last four decades, without yielding one iota of presence in the three-dimensional world of bodies in space.

These works do not exist in the cloud; they exist in a room with you, demanding an intimate confrontation with both their medium -- sumptuously textured weave structures, begging to be touched -- and their subjects, whose personalities, amplified by the sheer scale of the tapestries and the amount of information in the images, emanate from their gazes and expressions like music from a speaker.

As Maria Flores writes in a 2007 review:

As always, Close’s thought-provoking work compels his viewers to pay "close" notice not only to his subjects, but also the processes through which he creates them.

His stark photographs of equally celebrated artists [...] are converted by means of a customized digital loom using 17,800 warp threads, and harken back to the days when fine tapestries hung proudly in castles and chateaus during the 19th century. You’d never guess, from far away at least, that these large-scale jacquard tapestry portraits are anything but photo-emulsions – they are so damn clear and beautiful. But in the intimate gallery space of Adamson, you begin to see the intricacies of the stitching, the delicate transfer of light to thread, the gorgeous, voluminous photos-turned-fabric. Black areas even have concentrated texture, something that is often lost in photography.

Roy, together with Lucas and Close's 2007 Self Portrait/Color, will be shown at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles later this month. Please see this post for more details.

More art by Chuck Close from Magnolia Editions

Monday, October 17, 2011

New William Wiley edition

New woodcut edition by William Wiley, 2011

Magnolia Editions printers Nicholas Price and Tallulah Terryll have finished pulling a new edition by William Wiley.

Based on a watercolor, this print combines a woodcut printed in black ink with acrylic color applied via Magnolia's UV-cured digital inkjet printer.

The limited edition of 30 will be sold by the Oxbow School in Napa as a fundraiser; for more information, please check their website in the coming months.

More artwork by William Wiley from Magnolia Editions

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rupert Garcia at MOCA LA

Rupert Garcia - photo by Juan Garza

Here's Rupert Garcia with some of his silkscreen work at the Geffen Contemporary, MOCA LA. Garcia is included in their current exhibition, "Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974-1981."

Monday, October 3, 2011

McLuhan on mixed-media

"It is the poets and painters who react instantly to a new medium like radio or TV. Radio and gramophone and tape recorder gave us back the poet's voice as an important dimension of the poetic experience. Words became a kind of painting with light, again. But TV, with its deep-participation mode, caused young poets suddenly to present their poems in cafes, in public parks, anywhere. After TV, they suddenly felt the need for personal contact with their public...

In our age artists are able to mix their media diet as easily as their book diet... Eliot made a great impact by the careful use of jazz and film form. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock gets much of its power from an interpenetration of film form and jazz idiom... Prufrock uses not only film form but the film theme of Charlie Chaplin, as did James Joyce in Ulysses... And Chaplin, just as Chopin had adapted the pianoforte to the style of the ballet, hit upon the wondrous media mix of ballet and film in developing his Pavlovalike alternation of ecstacy and waddle. He adopted the classical steps of ballet to a movie mime that converged exactly the right blend of the lyric and the ironic that is found also in Prufrock and Ulysses. Artists in various fields are always the first to discover how to enable one medium to use or release the power of another.

The printed book had encouraged artists to reduce all forms of expression as much as possible to the single descriptive and narrative plane of the printed word. The advent of electric media released art from this straitjacket at once, creating the world of Paul Klee, Picasso, Braque, Eisenstein, the Marx Brothers, and James Joyce...

The hybrid or the meeting of two media is a moment of truth and revelation from which new form is born... The moment of the meeting of two media is a moment of freedom and release from the ordinary trance and numbness imposed by them on our senses."

- Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

Friday, September 23, 2011

Artists at the studio

In the past few weeks we've been working on several projects which are either too top-secret to show, or are still in the earliest stages.

However, there are some projects we can show you: Guy Diehl proofed a new mixed-media edition, John Collier flew in from Texas to add some hand-painted details to his tapestries for the World Food Project, and David Kimball made some handmade paper in the increasingly renovated handmade paper mill! (The paper mill's condition continues to improve thanks to the hard work of Magnolia employees Ken Jensen and Brian Caraway.)

Brian Caraway and Don Farnsworth putting up the Collier tapestries

Brian Caraway and Don Farnsworth putting up the Collier tapestries

Shirley and John Collier

John Collier

John Collier

John Collier

Guy Diehl prints acrylic color on a copper plate etching

Guy Diehl and Nicholas Price discuss proofs

Guy Diehl examines a proof

David Kimball and Nicholas Price in the handmade paper studio

David Kimball making paper

David Kimball making paper

Friday, August 26, 2011


Hung Liu - Rainmaker, 2011
Jacquard tapestry, 71 x 78 in. Edition of 12

Hung Liu's latest tapestry edition, Rainmaker, gracefully translates Liu's virtuosic washes and drips of oil paint into warp and weft threads.

In her paintings, Liu primarily uses 19th and 20th century photographs of Chinese laborers and courtesans, which she surrounds with a unique mixture of traditional Chinese symbols, calligraphic flourishes, and dripping veils of linseed oil. Liu’s husband, the writer and curator Jeff Kelley, describes her paintings as an alchemical marriage, in which “the fresh, luscious poetry of the “mineral period” (painting) presses against the dry atrophied plates of the “chemical period” (photography).

Hung Liu - Rainmaker (detail)

Liu’s tapestries, then, are the grandchildren of this marriage. Pixels containing the DNA of those paintings are ‘bred’ with the tapestry medium to produce a new hybrid, in which the singular texture and familiar physical presence of the “textile period” are infused with the precise values of the “digital period.” The photographs, whose authoritative gaze is literally disintegrated by the artist's strokes of oil, are practically lost; the ensuing compositions exist in a space somewhere between painting and textiles, pigment and threads. Her tapestries disavow an inherent truth in any one form of mark-making, weaving together diverse media to tell their dreamlike tales.

Hung Liu - Rainmaker (detail)

In keeping with its title, Liu's Rainmaker is resplendent with splashy, dripping trails of painted color; two dragonflies, Chinese symbols of summer, crown the head of its enigmatic, anonymous subject.

More art by Hung Liu from Magnolia Editions

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rob Keller, Amy Ernst, Squeak Carnwath, George Miyasaki at the studio

Rob Keller at Magnolia Editions

Artists Rob Keller and Amy Ernst worked on print projects at Magnolia today; Squeak Carnwath also stopped by with her dog Vermeer, and George Miyasaki pulled some collagraph proofs.

You may remember Keller's tapestry of mummified bees, which numbers among the earliest tapestry editions published by Magnolia. Keller continues to make art involving (or perhaps in collaboration with) his bees; his most recent series of prints depict an experiment in which he released a feral colony of bees into a Victorian dollhouse.

Art by Rob Keller: feral bees in a dollhouse!

Art by Rob Keller

Art by Rob Keller

Keller also created some bee-inspired wallpaper, printing directly on a specially coated roll of wallpaper from Magnolia's large-format inkjet printers:

Bee wallpaper by Rob Keller

Bee wallpaper by Rob Keller

Meanwhile New York-based artist Amy Ernst managed to miss the East Coast earthquake (and catch the West Coast quake!) by spending this week working at Magnolia with printer Tallulah Terryll.

Amy Ernst at Magnolia with one of her artist's books

This visit finds Ernst (granddaughter of famed Surrealist Max Ernst) incorporating more imagery printed on the flatbed acrylic printer and mixing media with great aplomb.

Ernst is using the flatbed printer to enlarge, modify, and re-work imagery from various sources, including an extraordinary artist's book she finished earlier this year:

Artist's book pages by Amy Ernst

Artist's book pages by Amy Ernst

Cover of artist's book by Amy Ernst

Detail of art in progress by Amy Ernst

Detail of art in progress by Amy Ernst

Art in progress by Amy Ernst

Squeak Carnwath also came by to make a poster for her upcoming show at Sylvia White Gallery.

Donald Farnsworth, Squeak Carnwath, and Carnwath's dog Vermeer

Amy Ernst and Carnwath's dog Vermeer quickly became friends:

Squeak Carnwath's dog Vermeer and Amy Ernst

Vermeer and Ernst

A delicious lunch of Salvadoran food followed, after which Keller and Carnwath returned to their respective studios.

Later, George Miyasaki arrived to proof one of his signature collagraph plates with printers Brian Caraway and Nicholas Price.

Brian Caraway (back to camera), Donald Farnsworth, George Miyasaki, Amy Ernst, and Tallulah Terryll

Miyasaki and Farnsworth consider Miyasaki's latest print (with a woodcut by Rupert Garcia in the background)

No, Miyasaki Dark is not a band name -- it's the special blend of ink for Miyasaki's collagraph plates

Caraway and Price pull a proof

Miyasaki and Caraway compare notes