Third National Monotype/Monoprint Juried Exhibition
The Monotype Agnostic
Several years ago I was invited to report on my experiences about having been a juror of several print and drawing exhibitions, to which artists submitted their work for consideration. In my essay, I made some references to stereotypes that characterized many of the entries and accepted works for these exhibitions, including one about those works I could expect to see submitted to this iteration of the exhibition sponsored by the Monotype Guild of New England (MGNE). It read, “the smeary, brightly colored ‘painterly’ monotype, demonstrating the wild and uncontrollable spirit and raw creative energy of those not tempered by talent or drive.”
Forgive me; I knew I had sinned when I added it to the essay (in fact it was concocted by a former student who was frustrated by his many failed attempts to have his work selected for exhibitions of this type—open submission). Truly, his description can be apt for a host of exhibitions, but when I was asked to be juror for this one, I considered the name of the organization, its location and mission, and agreed to serve for the chance to find work that defied this offensive stereotype. And, if I did not, I would still select an exhibition that exemplified the aesthetic breadth of the submissions.
Since 1980, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized a memorable exhibition entitled The Painterly Print, interest in this medium has expanded exponentially. Initially an orphan—or the bastard stepchild of printmaking and drawing—the unique impression from a matrix, either fixed or not fixed, has had a peripatetic life in the commercial art world. Best described as a studio object—something the artist has made in exploration of a form, a quick reversal, an alternate way of making marks—the monotype or monoprint has a long history of commercial indifference. Michael Mazur, an artist well known to the MGNE, contributed importantly to the exhibition, which has since inspired countless artists to play with the medium in its various guises. And, since then especially, acceptance of work in these media has been broad, and many more artists have employed it, who may never have been interested in having fifty or more impressions of the same image by them. All of this history, including the fact that Chicago owns Castiglione’s Creation of Adam, arguably the first monotype ever created, has informed my review process.
As a long-term professor of printmaking and curator of prints and drawings, I have seen just about every conceivable variation of these combined processes—some outstanding in their directness and immediacy, others about as lethargic as a sloth. Selecting this exhibition has been a challenge and enriching experience for me. The work was more varied and expansive than I imagined, and I chose with the hope that I would love the resulting exhibition as much in the flesh as I did electronically. My intention always is to represent the critical mass of submissions, give work on the edge of goodness or horribleness a chance, and to suppress my prejudices. With any luck, the artists who submitted and visitors to the gallery will agree that I was able to do this respectfully of them and sponsors of the exhibition.
Curator, Department of Prints and Drawings
The Art Institute of Chicago