10 Years: The Cameron Print Project

On view at Middlebury College Museum of Art, January 9–April 29, 2018

As an artistic discipline, printmaking grows firmly from the crossroads of creative imagination and the grounded arena of technical skill. The exhibition 10 Years: The Cameron Print Project whisks away any assumptions of the medium as a staid or predictable one, and instead maps out a confident argument for its vitality within both contemporary art and art education.

Launched in 2008 with an institutional gift from the Cameron family, the Print Project brings one artist every year to Middlebury College for an intensive week-long collaboration with students enrolled in artist and professor Hedya Klein’s printmaking course. The artist and the students, together with master printmakers who oversee the program (Colin Matthes, Heimo Wallner and others), work to produce an original edition for the artist’s oeuvre. “The students are actually producing the artist’s work—the stakes are high for them,” Klein offered during an exhibition preview.

Paralleling the Renaissance apprenticeship model, one poetic example of its product comes from a 2011 collaboration with New York conceptualist Mark Dion. The artist famously engages with practices of collection and taxonomy originating from the age of the Wunderkammer; students were tasked with making solarplate etchings reproducing a sketch from his major Milan installation Oceanomania: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas from the Expedition to the Aquarium.

That peculiar challenge of replicating the artist’s hand—or its proxy, the pencil mark—resurfaced the following year with New York-based Derrick Adams, who wished for a draft-like appearance in his architectural collage silkscreen Human Structure with Multiple Facets and Accessories. The effect was achieved through mixing graphite into the ink.

The exhibit showcases a dramatic breadth of styles. Included are the graphic novel-inflected prints of Michael Jordan and David Sandlin, colorful and captivating photography-based works by Kati Heck and Rona Yefman and the intricate, layered structures of Nicola López and Tomas Vu. Christy Gast and Vladimir Peric both venture toward bold abstractions, albeit working from vastly different source material.

“I want to show our students what the scope of the art world looks like,” Klein commented, “and to introduce them to artists they may not have read about in an art history book.”

Image: Blood Moon (2015)