Print magic

 

Kenneth Tyler: Tamarind, Gemini G.E.L. and Tyler Graphics, Ltd.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Through May 24  

Printmaking constitutes its own artform, and artists often work with well-known printmakers who are willing to experiment to achieve certain visual and technical ends. Among the best known of such printmakers in the last 50 years or so, Kenneth Tyler is considered somewhat of an institution. In the course of his career, Tyler midwifed prints for important 20th century painters and sculptors such as Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler and Mark DiSuvero, to name a relative few.

On view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the smallish exhibition Kenneth Tyler: Tamarind, Gemini G.E.L. and Tyler Graphics, Ltd. includes 23 prints by some of the aforementioned artists and many others — among them Vija Celmins. (Tyler and Celmins are connected to Indiana, and thus the IMA: Both received bachelor’s degrees from Herron School of Art.) Two of Celmins’ well-known prints, “Drypoint — Ocean Surface (Second State)” and “Strata,” are both complicated and accessible. “Strata” gives the impression of a galaxy, and certainly it is, but it’s not a photograph. Rather, it’s the result of Celmins’ painstakingly detailed application of an image onto several small printing plates put together like a puzzle to look like a celestial chart.

Such detail, the result of manipulative possibilities realized only because the artist and her printmaker imagined them into being, are the hallmark of Tyler’s efforts, which first received notice during his time as technical director of Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the 1960s. During his tenure there, he printed the editions of Josef Albers and Rufino Tamayo, co-founding Gemini GEL in 1965, and thus attracting artists Stella, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein to Los Angeles to work with him. By 1974 he had left for New York to start his own shop, Tyler Graphics. There he continued to work his magic with artists worldwide, printing and publishing works that would fetch the outlandish prices the late 20th century was known for. (A Hockney print produced by Tyler sold for $154,000 in 1989.)

Tyler certainly pushed the medium — and the results of this can be seen in the IMA exhibition, which includes works selected from the museum’s own collection, including the aforementioned works by Celmins and prints by Hockney, DiSuvero, Stella, Motherwell, Anni Albers, Dorothea Rockburne, William Crutchfield and others — including Tyler’s own “Homage to Susan Jonas,” a 1964 color lithograph with double images resembling a shell and its echo.

Tyler retired his shop in 2000, and sold many of his collections. The IMA exhibition offers a glimpse of his legacy. Kenneth Tyler: Tamarind, Gemini Gel and Tyler Graphics is the fourth in a series of shows at the museum on the major American print workshops of the same period. It runs through May 24 in the Milliken Gallery, third floor. Call 317-923-1331 or visit www.imamuseum.org for hours and information.

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