Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: March 4th

March 4, 2011

Playing with Printmaking

Much has been made about whether beginning collectors should buy originals or should start by acquiring prints and multiples. This is a line of thinking that has been around the art world for generations. However, with the case of modern graphics or prints by modern artists, there is increasingly little difference between originals and prints. Take the case of Ed Ruscha.

Traditionally many artists created prints so that there would be a more affordable option for a collector to acquire a certain image. In other words, artists may have sold an important oil painting and they would then simply authorize a number of copy to be made through lithography so that the image would be more accessible to a greater number of people.

Ruscha, however, was much more interested in the process of printmaking than simply making copies of his paintings. He knew from the beginning of his career that the printmaking process lent itself to a completely different set of rules than creating works on canvas.  Like Picasso before him, he consistently pushed the envelope and was interested in what might be possible through experimentation.

Specifically Lot 210, Fruit-Metrecal Hollywood, was created not with traditional printer’s ink, but rather with actual fruit juice from a brand called Metrecal.  In addition to experimenting with the process, there is also a sly statement being made about Hollywood as it relates to the growing fitness craze. Similarly, he would also create two more editions of the Hollywood subject matter using caviar and Pepto-Bismol as the printing ink. This week a previewer who was familiar with the process told an interesting story about the Pepto-Bismol edition:

Ruscha had sent an assistant around the corner to a grocery store to by a bottle of Pepto-Bismol as an experiment to see how the liquid would react when pressed through the silkscreen onto the paper. After the first proof they decided to make an entire edition and the assistant was sent back to the market to buy a whole case of the product. The cashier then remarked “Well, I guess this stuff really works!”

The curiosity and experimental nature of Ruscha’s work during this period proves that the medium of printmaking can result in works that were not possible using oil on canvas. Anytime an artist is using the printmaking medium to create original works, rather than to make simple copies of their paintings, the market will always respond favorably.

Lot 210
Ed Ruscha
Fruit-Metrecal Hollywood
Screenprint on Copperplate
Deluxe paper
#65 of 85
Published by Cirrus Editions
Signature, date and edition lower left
Catalogue Raisonne #53
Sheet 14.5″h x 41.5″, frame 15.75″ x 43″
Estimate $7,000 – 9,000

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