It’s been a few weeks since my trip to the U.S., but I’ve now had time to reflect on what I learned and to plan the next steps for my practice.

The first part of the visit was to New York. My four days there were a real treat – I visited a number of printmaking studios, including the famous Robert Blackburn and Manhattan Graphics Center on Manhattan, and Shoestring Press over in Brooklyn. My intention was to learn as much as I could about the creative practices of the artist-printmakers using the facilities, and also about the business models sustaining them. As physical space in New York is at a premium, most of the studios are compact in size but with a relatively high number of members. Trusted ‘key holders’ are able to use the facilities on a 24/7 basis, whilst others book time slots around them, so the studios are never overcrowded. Most studios also put on exhibitions, workshops and demonstrations that help to generate extra income and raise the profile of the studio amongst the printmaking community and beyond. They also have strong and active connections with the large number of private and public galleries in the city.

Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop

Manhattan Graphics Center

At Manhattan Graphics Center, I was fortunate to get the chance to speak with a couple o the resident printmakers there, including collagraph specialist Edgar Hartley. He opened my eyes to the possibilities of using various tissue papers and other textured papers to make plates. He combined these with overprinting to produce some wonderful results, as you can see below.

Above: collagraph plate and print by Edgar Hartley

In between studio visits, I also had the chance to do a little cultural sightseeing. Number one on my list was The High Line. It had been almost twenty years since my previous visit to NY, and the High Line had not yet even been thought of, let alone built. I’d heard such good things about it, so I just had to go and take a look. It snakes for around one and a half miles along the midtown western edge of Manhattan, and was created from the remnants of an old elevated railway that took goods in and out of the old meatpacking district. I walked from North to South, to give myself the treat of ending the line with a visit to the nearby Whitney Museum of Modern Art (see below).

The High Line

One of the many sculptures on The High Line

In my opinion, The Whitney is one of the best public galleries in New York. Its focus is on Americam artists, but its scope in terms of approaches and materials used by the artists on show is impressively wide and immersive. One of my favourite works there was National Times, by Agustina Woodgate. It was a take on the ‘current state of labor and power’. The room was filled with around twenty clocks, linked and time-synchronised by a closed power circuit. The underside of the clocks’ minute hands were covered in sandpaper. As time progresses, the hands gradually scrape away the numerals away from the clock faces. The piece literally erases time and the functional value of the clocks – ‘collectively regaining autonomy in the process of disintegration’.

National Times, by Agustina Woodgate, at The Whitney

After my few days in NY, I moved on to undertake a two-week residency at the Center for Contemporary printmaking in Norwalk, Connecticut. My next post will be on the first part of that.

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