I recently read an old Wired article entitled The New Remasters (1996 maybe) during my searches for digital printmaker practitioners. Amongst other things the article got me thinking about two areas of print; firstly the values and distinctions assigned to reproductions and secondly the ‘fine art’ of reproduction.
The New Remasters summary:
In short the article centers around the main protagonist James Danziger and his online fine art reproduction company Artland.com. There is also a cameo appaearence from the Iris Ink-jet printer and not to mention ‘the world renown fine art printer’ David Adamson. Danziger’s story unfolds shortly after seeing a digital print reproduction produced by Adamson for the photographer Joel Meyerowitz. The reproduction is produced with an Iris inkjet printer (a seminal machine within digital printmaking) that is of such high quality that he (Danziger) decides to investigates the Iris prints marketability. Danziger shows the work to a group of museum curators who subsequently cannot tell the difference between the Iris reproduction and the original print. Further more the Iris print surpasses any poster reproductions produced by museums and galleries – eventually Danziger teams up with Adamson and Artland.com begins producing high-end reproduction prints.
“Iris printing has become the Cadillac of digital reproduction” and “Adamson was a whiz at making Iris reproductions”
Amongst other commentators Danziger highlights Adamson’s mastery of the Iris as an integral contribution toward producing the unique kind of reproduction that only Artland.com offers.
“The Iris print falls somewhere between self-betterment and decoration”
Around 75% of Adamson’s reproduction process uses automated colour management methods, the other 25% is left to Adamson’s experience and interpretation. The intuitive part (the 25%) of the the workflow is in the colour balancing which Adamson describes as the place where ‘there is still some judgement involved’. Here Adamson utilises his experience of Iris printing by selectively bringing out crucial nuances that can get lost in the translation from the ‘digital matrix’ to the printed image.
The reproductive production within a fine art printmaking context got me thinking about a piece of writing entitled Endangered Species by the British Artist Richard Hamilton. Throughout Hamilton’s experience of working with an array of traditional Master Printers he observed that the ‘most admirable print craftsman’ were those who had been involved in some reproductive endeavour. Hamilton summaries that the printer’s transcription sensibilities were testament to the demands of reproductive work where the best printers “polished their genius on the mundane tasks of translating between media”.
Hamilton has also been an advocate for selecting printers based upon what he considers to be their particular strength and therefore which printer is best suited to a specific project. More over it is often said in fine art printmaking circles that when an artist works with a specific studio/Master Printer they will be adopting the house style of that studio in their work. I find the house style attribute intriguing when applied to high-end reproductions, copies, replica’s or facsimiles. A reproduction created in this way assumes a richer provenance and therefore added value, maybe even a unique ‘synthesised aura’
Favorite quote about copies coming up now:
“I want the best copy. The only copy. The most expensive copy. I want James Joyce’s Chamber Music. I want the 1907 version, the “variant” the first variant, […] I want the earliest copy on record. I want the copy that is rarer than anyone had previously dreamed of. I want the copy the dreams”
Richard Prince, Bringing It all Back Home, 1988