Columbia University’s print center is lauded by artists and critics alike. Gifted by LeRoy and Janet Neiman, the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies operates at the highest level of production and artistic intent. Artists Kiki Smith, William Kentridge, Sarah Sze, Ellen Gallagher, Terry Winters, Dasha Sushkin and many others have produced experimental work at the Center with the expert assistance of master printers and the guidance of the Center’s Artistic Director, Tomas Vu-Daniel, and gifted graduate students from the Visual Arts Program. The teams assist invited guest artists to actualize complex and daring projects, some collaborating with master printers like Kentridge, while others like Gallagher come completely new to the program. The centers allows artists to feel completely comfortable and trusted knowing that they are in expert hands as well as give artists an opportunity to interact with some of the finest and fearless artists working today.
In just 10 years, the center has been able to produce some of the finest prints including the performance artist Rirkrit Tiravanijia’s major passport project which is material embodiment of his peripatetic life. He collected pages of his passports over a period of years, complete with customs stamps to create a gigantic record of his travels in the form of 3′ tall wall-length scrolls up to 28′ long. He embellished them with diaristic notes and hand-collaged elements including hair, coffee, stains and stickers. Remarkably, the work is an edition of 40 making it a heroic work by the artist and the most ambitious project of LNC and a landmark of collaborative printmaking.
Kara Walker’s “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” is another great example of the rigorous art projects that are a result of the Center’s fertile creative environment. Kara’s project is considered one of the finest projects of the LNC representing a meta-language in itself, an arch commentary on one of the medium’s historic functions-the dissemination of information. Appropriating 19th century illustrational engravings from book, Walker superimposes on it a series of poignant narratives about African-Americans and slavery that seek to undermine it’s historic reportage. Her projects not only represents the ability for prints presenting an essential aspect of the artist’s oeuvre but also inherent qualities of the print medium itself. Her print work offers a refreshing look at the significance of prints.
While there is a wide range of printmaking techniques available at the Center, most projects are centered on 0ffset lithography, a rarely offered technique at most printshops because it is often associated with large commercial presses. A rate Duffa VII offset press however is on site allowing artists to take advantage of its benefits. Instead of printing directly from a stone or aluminum sheet, the image is first transferred to a cylinder and then printed, avoiding the conundrum of a reversed image. It uses thin inks and its capable of achieving a very fine registration that can allow for extremely subtle affects. Eric Fischl’s monumental triad of nudes, ‘Move, Tumble and Watch’ (2001), look like translucent watercolors. William Kentridg also applied the offset with Hye Kim in ‘Dancing Couple’, the largest of four projects he completed at the Center.
Such great projects result from the Center’s dedication to providing artists with the right tools and environment to take risks and endeavor on challenges that push their own artistic limits in printmaking.