June 5th 2009 - "From the Factory Floor" Screen Print

Collaborations by Master Printer Gary Lichtenstein

By Fran Sikorksi

After 30 years of collaborations with well-known artists, master silkscreener Gary Lichtenstein is recognized as one of the most gifted printmakers in the world. He’s also known for his own paintings, which are color-saturated abstracts This spring, he is readying a show that will open at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists in May. A member of the guild’s board, he has donated some print-making equipment to the group and is also planning to teach silkscreening at the art center. During an interview at his Ridgefield studio barn, Mr. Lichtenstein described himself as “an artist’s artist” and said he is not happy that his craft and labor are becoming a lost art because of modern technology.

A Connecticut native who has returned home after living in California for many years, Mr. Lichtenstein said he began exploring the silkscreen process while at the San Francisco Art Institute and soon “recognized the collaborative potential inherent in the discipline.” In 1978, which he called “a turning point in my career,” the artist started his own printmaking studio, SOMA Fine Art Press in San Francisco, as a forum devoted to creative collaboration among artists from around the world. His guiding philosophy, he said, was “focused on respecting artistic integrity within the spontaneous process” of producing prints. He worked with artists in his studio, always aiming to maintain the integrity their work while translating a painting or an idea to the silk screen medium. Among the artists he’s worked with most recently (from 2001 to 2005) have been Tom Christopher, Irwin Hasen, Andy Hammerstein, Dominick Lombard, Al Hirschfeld, and Roy Weinstein.

While establishing SOMA Fine Art Press, he sold his paintings to support his studio, as he worked to make his vision a reality This was a growth period for his own work, as what were thick, abstract expressionist shapes were becoming more ethereal. The artist said he was letting go of his teachers’ influences and experiencing an evolution in his own work. However, he maintains contact with his teachers and past work, never letting it be forgotten.The   artist/printmaker’s unique style led

to a new designation, “color expressionist,” as he emphasized color in his painting and prints, removing the objective imagery.

This carries over into his printmaking of other artists’ work, he said. “It is with a devoted passion for color that I work with precision the endless use of creative techniques to translate onto paper the lines, textures and the qualities of an artist’s brush stroke that exist in the original painting, used simply as a guide during the process." Mr. Lichtenstein’s preparation for his career began when he was a high school student in Connecticut in the late 1960s. His teenage “idols” were artists like Robert Motherwell and Jasper Johns, not rock stars. He attended Syracuse University where he majored in oriental philosophy and religion; received a B.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute where he had an apprenticeship with Robert Fried and documented and curated his art estate; and received an M.F.A. in art and media technology from Antioch College.

The artist is looking forward to connecting and collaborating with area artists now that he and his wife, Sarah Henderson, a writer, and their 14-year old son, David, have made Ridgefield their home and he has set up his studio.In addition to his upcoming Ridgefield show, Mr. Lichtenstein is also readying an exhibit that will open at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, N.Y., in September.

For more information on the fine art of serigraphy and Gary Lichtenstein Editions, please visit www.garylichtensteineditions.com

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“I found myself surrounded by all this room, and realized what a great project space it was,” Mr. Christopher said. “I thought, ‘I want to get some artists in here.’ And now we’ve launched our first show.”

“From a Factory Floor” chronicles important collaborations throughout the career of Gary Lichtenstein, a silk-screen artist and the owner of Gary Lichtenstein Fine Art in Ridgefield, Conn. The exhibition presents work by 14 artists — from painters like Alex Katz, Gary Panter and Karl Benjamin to Jack Micheline, a Beat generation poet, and Michael De Feo, a contemporary street artist — all printed by Mr. Lichtenstein.

Mr. Christopher described Mr. Lichtenstein as “one of the few great printers in the world.” “He’s a master colorist who is able to bring out things in your work that you might not see yourself,” Mr. Christopher said.

Mr. Lichtenstein, 55, began his career in San Francisco as an apprentice to Robert Fried, a rock ’n’ roll poster artist whose prints from the 1960s and 1970s appear in “From a Factory Floor.” “Right away, I got hooked on silk-screen,” said Mr. Lichtenstein, who served as curator of the exhibition, which includes one of his own pieces. He is also preparing a solo show, to open at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2010.

Mr. Christopher’s print “Midway Float,” derived from a painting of the same name he did in 2006, is part of “From a Factory Floor.” Printing with Mr. Lichtenstein, Mr. Christopher said, goes far beyond simple reproduction.

“Decisions are made,” he said. “There is an evolution. It involves the art of discovery.”

In the show, each artist’s work is presented as a project; items that demonstrate the process of its creation are included. Multiple versions of the final image of some works are displayed, and photographs and objects like screens, squeegees and empty paint cans accompany the pieces.

“I love explaining how silk-screens are made,” Mr. Lichtenstein said. “Sometimes I used three pulls, sometimes I used 35. Some pieces took days to finish, others took months.”

Mr. Christopher plans to present up to four exhibitions a year. The next one is scheduled to open in the fall. Tentatively titled “Draw to Paint,” it will combine pop culture and outsider art, featuring works by artists including Saul Steinberg, Isadore Freleng, known as Friz, and Ed Roth, known as Big Daddy. Mr. Christopher said he was also thinking about exhibiting his private collection of tattoo art, and was considering a poet’s suggestion to hold literary readings in the space.

“Ideas spring forth from other ideas — that’s the whole point,” Mr. Christopher said, emphasizing that the space is not a traditional gallery.

“The focus of a gallery is to represent an artist’s long-term career,” he said. “We’re doing something different. We’re showing artists on a one-time basis. This is a place where they can explore different approaches to presenting their work.”

“From a Factory Floor: Screen Print Collaborations by Master Printmaker Gary Lichtenstein,” through July 12 at Lift Trucks Project, 3 East Cross Street, Croton Falls. ltproject.com.

Printmaker Gary Lichtenstein,” the inaugural show at the new Lift Trucks Project, might be hard-pressed to imagine the place filled with 8,000-pound forklifts. Comprising three artists’ studios and a large exhibition space, the Lift Trucks Project occupies the site of the former B. Hawley Smith Company, a forklift service and sales business.

The 5,600-square-foot factory, built in the 1920s, caught the eye of Tom Christopher, an artist who lives in South Salem. Mr. Christopher, whose paintings of New York City have been exhibited internationally, bought the property in 2008, and after a year of renovations moved his studio into the second floor.

           ISITORS to the exhibition

______“From a Factory Floor: Screen ______Print Collaborations by Master


Silk Screen Prints Reopen a Heavy-Equipment Factory