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Assisting Michael Krueger

I kicked a s s today assisting Michael Krueger on a series of woodblock prints at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop.

Michael is an artist from Kansas who works in printmaking, animation, painting and drawing. He is visiting New York to publish a series of prints with the shop. The images are drawings which have been lazar cut into woodblocks and printed in multiple colors on Kozo #8 rice paper. We are printing three small editions, which will be divided between the printshop and Michael and sold. The drawings feature references to artists in the canon of art history which Michael says he is taking ownership of by including in his own work. In one image, Lee Krazer stands in front of a portrait of Edvard Munch with a paintbrush dripping red paint. Simple drawings without backgrounds, the referents float in a color field.

I began on Tuesday by coating the Kozo paper with a methyl-cellulose glue. One side is painted with the wet glue and left to dry on large sheets of plexiglass. Once dry, we are able to print first runs of the woodblocks. Michael carried about 9 blocks, I did not count the exact number. The base colors were printed in litho ink with plenty of drier and left overnight.

Originally Michael planned to print two colors on each print. By Thursday, each print had at least three rolls of color, and some seem to have as many as five. The crew of us working for Michael rolled a red base onto an image of a Monet painting with a pot of flowers underneath. Justin, the workshop manager, taught me to roll using the largest roller in the shop. It was hard on my arms and I imagine those printmakers using larger rollers all day have built quite an upper body strength. I was reminded of my affinity for the medium which derives from its physical demand on my body. There is relatively little sitting or stillness involved in printmaking, in my experience.

After lunch, Michael and I found a rhythm printing a gradient roll on top of a sea-green print, and quickly ran off 15 prints for the edition. He wanted to boost the bottom of Lee Krazner’s shoes and bring out a few paintbrushes scattered on the floor. The artist has an idiosyncratic way of drawing objects in space, the spaces remaining ambiguous or blank fields of color. He also has an impressive sense of color and many years of practice printmaking. (See hands below)

As we worked we discussed his career as a professor of art at the University of Kansas, my plans for (or consideration of) graduate study, and Bob Dylan. Michael has seen him 60 times. By 5pm, we had completed all the inking and passing, and the rack was full of prints left to dry overnight for tomorrow’s chine-collé.

The glue I originally painted on the back will be reactived as a wet sheet of hahnemuhle copperplate paper is placed on top of the Kozo. The Kozo will stick to the copperplate, which provides a thick background and white frame for the print, which has been inked to its deckle. Very nice.

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Michael Krueger Eats PotPie

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