Print portfolios, both those produced by individual artists as works in a series and those made as a collection of prints by several artists, are the subject of a new exhibition at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus.
"Wrapped, Tied and Packaged: Print Portfolios from the Collection," organized by print intern Rachel Epp Buller, is on display through Jan. 10 in the White Gallery. Epp will conduct a tour of the exhibit at 12:15 p.m. Dec. 3.
Interest in print portfolios seemed to flourish in the 19th century, according to information compiled by the Spencer Museum of Art staff. European etching societies encouraged the production and distribution of print portfolios. They wanted to increase their audience as well as promote "original" hand-printing over the more "mechanical" process of photography, a new medium with which printmakers were having to compete.
According to the compiled information, German printmakers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries thought of the print portfolio as a cycle, with a series of prints based on a common theme. The German Expressionist group Die Brucke turned this into a promotional device, and in 1905 Die Brucke began an annual tradition of collaborative print portfolios issued by subscription. That tradition continues to exist in classroom settings and artist groups.
"Artifacts at the End of the Decade," a work in the Spencer show, demonstrates Die Brucke's legacy. In 1981, 47 artists in New York contributed their own interpretations of the 1970s to create the work.
Among those artists were R. Crumb, Laurie Anderson, Robert Kushner, Kingsley Parker, Joan Livingstone and Betsey Johnson.
The exhibition also focuses on individual artists who created portfolios of a series of prints that revolved around a theme or were connected in some other way.
An example is U.S. artist Ed Ruscha, who produced a series of organic screenprints in 1970 using a variety of crushed edible materials -- such as caviar, salmon, chocolate syrup and strawberries -- for his printing ink.
In addition to the prints, the ornate packaging of the portfolios -- often an integral part of the work -- is also being exhibited.