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