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Spring 2012

The Art of Printmaking

by Sally Logue Post

Texas Tech Museum Combines Art and Research in New Collection

The Artist Printmaker Research Collection

The Artist Printmaker Research Collection is available to anyone who is interested in making use of the collection for teaching, research or related scholarly pursuits. The artworks cannot be loaned or checked out and access is supervised by museum staff.

The collection is available Monday through Friday, except for holidays. To make an appointment, contact Peter Briggs at (806) 742-2442 ext. 270 or peter.briggs@ttu.edu.

The Museum of Texas Tech University is located at 3301 Fourth St. at Indiana Avenue.  See more about the Museum of Texas Tech University at www.museum.ttu.edu.

Peter Briggs

Meet the Researcher

Peter Briggs is the Helen DeVitt Jones curator of art at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

 

Fine art printmaking has a long history at Texas Tech University. ColorPrint USA exhibitions brought hundreds of the best prints and scores of the best printmakers in the world to the Texas Tech campus over four decades. This exhibition series was the brainchild of Texas Tech art professor emeritus Lynwood Kreneck and his wife, Eleanor.

Since its first exhibition in 1969, ColorPrint has featured more than 700 artists. Now, the Museum of Texas Tech University (MoTTU) is preserving the work of many of those artists.

Peter Briggs, Helen DeVitt Jones curator of art at the museum, attended a ColorPrint USA exhibition shortly after his arrival in Lubbock in 2004, gaining an introduction to dozens of outstanding artists. Just two years prior, in 2002, Briggs had been part of an exchange of curators with the City Museum of Bratislava, an institution with a print collection ranging from the 15th to 21st centuries. In 2006 Briggs received a Fulbright Senior Scholar award to teach and conduct research at the Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, Republic of Slovakia.

“My friend, a curator in Slovakia, put together a collection of conceptual Slovak art, with virtually no financial resources," said Briggs. “Through an intense focus on one form of art, he made an impact on the future of the art and history of Slovakia.”

The experience in Slovakia combined with Briggs’ exposure to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, an art research archive and photograph collection, formed part of the encouragement for the Artist Printmaker Research Collection, now an integral part of the Museum of Texas Tech University.

The museum already possessed a modest collection of prints, but Briggs intended to go much deeper, asking artists to donate not only their artworks but also materials used to develop artists’ imagery and a host of related archival materials. Because many of the artists in the collection are still creating art, Briggs asked that they send recently completed work every year or so to continue to develop the archive.

Research collections and study area of the Artist Printmaker Research Collection at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

Research collections and study area of the Artist Printmaker Research Collection at the Museum of Texas Tech University.

“It's asking a lot of an artist, but so far, no one has turned me down,” said Briggs.

There are about 6,000 works in the collection now, with more than 1,000 of those having been added over the past year. Kreneck, for example, has about 175 works in the collection so far and even though he is internationally known for his work, being asked to be part of the Artist Printmaker Research Collection was emotional. For Kreneck the collection is something of a dream come true.

“I have often spoken of a mythical printmaking hall of fame,” said Kreneck. “I would love to see this project represent that desire. I’m proud of what Peter is creating and I’m honored to be included.”

Briggs said his selling point to the artists is that their work will be preserved, appreciated, interpreted and organized for many generations. This growing collection, he noted, “creates an unrivaled resource for current and future research, publications and exhibitions.”

“I tell the artists that they won’t necessarily be able to control what happens to their work after they die,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that 200 years from now their work will be considered like undiscovered Rembrandts. But I can predict that the museum will preserve their work and make it available for a student working on a dissertation, a scholar writing a book on American culture, or any individual interested in the history of American art and printmaking.”

Creating an art research collection was a challenge for Briggs. Paintings or sculpture require vast amounts of storage and resources and painters or sculptors tend to create only unique works. In printmaking, however, it is often possible to create several images that are almost exactly alike, called an edition. Also, most prints are made on sheets of paper, so the artworks can be stored flat in drawers. Briggs noted the practicality of collecting prints, “Sometimes collecting is a matter of resources and space. I can store 100 prints in the same area required by one medium-sized painting.”

Might Makes Right: 2004 woodcut by Nancy Palmeri. Photograph courtesy MoTTU Art Division. © Nancy Palmeri.

Might Makes Right: 2004 woodcut by Nancy Palmeri. Photograph courtesy MoTTU Art Division. © Nancy Palmeri.
Click image to enlarge

Runnin’ Ronnie: 1979 screen print and lithograph by Andrew Polk. Photograph courtesy MoTTU Art Division. © Andrew Polk.

Runnin’ Ronnie: 1979 screen print and lithograph by Andrew Polk. Photograph courtesy MoTTU Art Division. © Andrew Polk.
Click image to enlarge

The Artist Printmaker Research Collection is important not just as an art collection, but as a research collection, as well. “The collection is important for art historians certainly, but also for students and individuals who are interested in art and to see how a work was created from start to finish, to read the artists letters, to hear their oral histories,” said Briggs.

Eileen Johnson, the museum’s director, believes the print project is exactly what the museum should be doing.

“Peter is providing a research context to printmaking,” said Johnson. “It is important that we create a context to help our constituents understand the impact of our collections. The Printmaker Collection does that. It allows one to see how the work came about, how the artists went about his or her work, how they interpret their work–which could be different from how the public or even the curator might interpret the work.”

Johnson also points to the historic aspects of the collection. “Printmaking has changed over time, and many artists ultimately produce prints; they all work differently using different techniques and mediums,” she said.

Printmaking in its most basic form is a simple process of transferring an image from one source to another. “If you put ink on your hand and press it onto a piece of paper, you’ve made a print,” said Briggs.

Printmaking in Europe goes back to the 15th century, when artists used primarily woodblocks to transfer images. In the early 19th century, artists began a period of fine art printmaking, said Briggs. Today digital technology is being incorporated with hand printed images. “What medium an artist uses is important and, in general, they will make use of what techniques are available,” said Briggs. “What is equally important is how they arrived at the final product. What were they thinking? What was the motivation for that image? What were the steps in developing the image?”

Briggs has focused the Artist Printmaker Research Collection primarily on Texas and the U.S. Southwest, a strategy that fits the museum’s mission. The eclectic materials used in printmaking also mirror the multidisciplinary nature of the museum. The museum is atypical in that it does not focus on one subject area.

The museum’s Natural Science Research Laboratory possesses biological collections that have aided research into diseases such as hantavirus and the effects on radiation on the area around the Chernobyl nuclear plant. The Lubbock Lake Landmark is an archaeological site depicting the longest record of continuous habitation in North America dating back about 12,000 years. The work of the researchers in the paleontology division is known internationally. And the museum’s art collection ranges from the Taos Society of Artists to a large collection of the works of N.C. Wyeth and contemporaries.

“Art was one of the first things the museum collected,” said Briggs. “Curry Holden, the museum’s founder, was friends with many of the artists in Santa Fe and Taos in the late 1920s and the 1930s. The museum has a good art collection, and I believe the print collection adds a new dimension that will encourage significant research and public interpretation.”

About Artist Lynwood Kreneck

Lynwood Kreneck

Lynwood Kreneck is an internationally known printmaker who lectures and teaches around the world. His work is part of the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Diego Museum of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Royal Museum of Art in Antwerp and 55 other museums and university collections.

Kreneck was a commercial art major at the University of Texas at Austin and had spent his senior year working as the assistant to printmaking professor Constance Forsyth. “After I graduated, I went to work for an advertising agency, but eventually went back to UT to get a master’s degree with the intention of teaching. Constance said I could have my old job back, and I became a printmaker,” he said.

Kreneck says artists are researchers. “I believe that artists research the human experience, we are interpreting all the time,” he said. “Whether you’ve lived a little or lived a lot, you are full of experiences, and as an artist you are trying to squeeze that last distilled drop of who you are into your art.”

Kreneck, who uses the screen printing technique, also has had a major impact on key materials used in printmaking. He spent countless hours working with paint manufacturers to expand and improve the use of water-based inks for screen printing that has made the process safer for artists. He also helped formulate the transparent base, Lyntex, named for him and still sold today by the Createx Company.

Kreneck earned a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts from the University of Texas before joining the art faculty at Texas Tech, where he taught for 40 years.

Sally Logue Post is Director of Research & Academic Communications for the Office of the Vice President for Research at Texas Tech University. Feature image of the Artist Printmaker Research Collection holdings, courtesy MoTTU Art Division.

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