Prints extend the reach of artists

Mangold lecture kicks off BMA fair

March 19, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Since at least Rembrandt's time, people have prized the fine prints of great artists nearly as much as their paintings, drawings and sculpture.

More affordable, and therefore more accessible, printmaking allowed artists to reach out to audiences who might otherwise never get a chance to see their works. At the same time, printmaking let artists experiment with their materials in ways that would be impractical in any other media.

So it's not surprising that Robert Mangold, a contemporary master who was a pioneer in the development of minimalism and conceptual art during the 1960s, is today as involved with printmaking as he is in creating the rigorously precise geometric paintings for which he is famous.

Tonight at 7, Mangold will talk about his printmaking activities and how they fit into the broader framework of his art in the kickoff lecture of the Baltimore Museum of Art's biennial contemporary print fair.

The fair, tomorrow and Sunday, brings together more than a dozen fine-arts galleries, dealers and presses from the East Coast. It offers viewers an opportunity to see firsthand a range of relatively affordable but high-quality drawings, prints and photography by both established and emerging artists. (The fair will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.)

"I'm going to talk about how the role of printmaking has grown steadily in my work since the 1960s," Mangold said. "In the 1960s, I did one project of three prints. By the 1990s, I [was doing] 20 projects. So [printmaking] has become an important part of my working process."

Mangold's seminal role in the avant-garde art of the '60s was acknowledged this year by the inclusion of several of his minimalist-inspired paintings in the Whitney Museum biennial survey of American art in New York.

"One of the things about minimalism is there was a kind of starting over, of trying to find out what the basic ingredients were," Mangold recalled.

Mangold's paintings are based on simple geometric shapes - circles, triangles, etc. - which he defines as motifs through skillful use of color and line.

"The idea was that shape was one of the ingredients of a painting that I wanted to explore," Mangold said. "For me, one possibility was using different kinds of shapes and their relationships, and then within that shape [there would occur] this linear surface and this color surface, so that the three welded into a totality. This is true of art in any period. It's the basic set of ingredients that are always there."

In recent decades, Mangold has devoted more time to printmaking, he said.

"A print is not as expensive as a drawing, but it is equally important in a way," Mangold said. "The big thing for people to understand is that a print project is a lot of work, and you try to make it absolutely as important as a painting or a drawing."

Mangold likes to cite another modern master's judgment on printmaking: "Barnett Newman had a great line: `Printmaking is not a poor man's substitute for painting or drawing.' Newman had great works, he exhibited them together with his prints, and they were equal contributors to the whole sense of what he was trying to do."

Print fair

Where: The BMA, 10 Art Museum Drive

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tomorrow and Sunday

Admission: $12 adults, $10 BMA members and seniors, students free

Kickoff lecture: Printmaker Robert Mangold speaks on his work tonight at 7 at the BMA, with a reception to follow. Cost is $8 ($5 BMA members and seniors, students free)

Call: 410-396-7100

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