From the Editor: Brushes with Greatness
Fine art and screen printing remain as intertwined as ever.
Two unforgettable moments from my career are very much front of mind as I think about this issue of Screen Printing.
The first happened 30 years ago, a short time after I joined the magazine. One afternoon, I got a peculiar call from a young man who explained in a trembling voice that he was looking for a way to capture a large physical graphic in a computer file. I asked him a few questions and couldn’t help noticing how carefully (and quietly) he replied; it was soon apparent that he wasn’t alone, as we were frequently interrupted by the furious bellows of a man standing some distance away in what sounded like a cavernous space. The conversation felt like a surreal cross between a customer service inquiry and a scene from “The Silence of the Lambs.”
I told him about the drum scanners that were then emerging from companies like Scitex, warning him that they were very expensive. “Price is no object,” he whispered back, and I finally asked him if the call was some sort of put-on. Turns out that the raging lunatic in the background was Robert Rauschenberg, the legendary pop art painter who was pressing his assistant to find a simple way to capture and combine images for his serigraphs.
A few years later, I had another “brush” with fine art greatness when I had the good fortune to spend a memorable day with French printer Michel Caza, the subject of this issue’s cover story, at his studio outside Paris. It was my first trip to Europe and it began inauspiciously; just an hour after landing, while riding on an almost empty train to the city, I learned that my traveling companion, former Screen Printing editor Susan Venell Frecska, didn’t speak French as well as she thought when we were approached by a dangerous looking man holding a razorblade.
But we arrived safely, and the next day were shown around a printing space unlike any I’d ever seen. A large skylight bathed the printroom in natural light. Fine-art prints covered the walls of the public spaces. Tall stacks of limited-edition serigraphs seemed to occupy every available surface. (Virtually everyone I know who also visited the space says the same thing: “Can you imagine if that building had ever been hit by a fire or flood?”) Caza called his business an atelier for a reason: Though he was renowned for pushing the boundaries of what screen printing could do and had an estimable reputation as a commercial printer for fashion and retail clients, Caza’s heart lay in those towering stacks of serigraphs.
And I realize, all these years later, that mine does, too. Many of us who somehow found their way into this business – often by accident (including Caza, as you will learn in our exclusive interview with him) – grew to love it. Not because we liked to calculate the percentage of open area in a mesh, but because the process we had all come to know presented an infinite number of creative possibilities.
You may not have many opportunities to print masterpieces, but as you read about this most celebrated of screen printers, remember that the solutions you devise on behalf of your clients are works of art as well.
Read more from the June/July 2018 issue.