Here we go - the perennial printmakers rant. The following is from Robert Genn's twice-weekly posting to The Painters Keys called "Prints or originals?" [edit: I had originally posted the entire message from the Painter's Keys, not really thinking about implications or interpretation, duh, and recently realized that that reduces traffic to Bob's site, which is definitely not good netiquette, and can be considered plagiarism (although I'd thought referencing the original source was sufficient at the time); I have now selected the important portion that I wished to quote. Please go to Bob's original post for the full story.]:
Esoterica: The ongoing problem with ubiquitous reproductions is what to do with genuine prints. Some folks do engravings, serigraphs, stone-lithos and other handmade, limited-edition works of art. I, for one, don't like to see traditional
print-art being marginalized, and mechanical reproduction has gone a long way in doing just that. This is one of the reasons dedicated printmakers tend to avoid clubs. Putting up a sign that says "Genuine prints--this way" won't cut it either,
unless you feel a donnybrook is needed for club publicity.
I'm sure you've received a tonne of responses from printmakers on this post. At least, I hope you do! Thanks for your "Esoterica", although, I wish it had somewhat more prominence in the post.So there's my rant for the day. Read it and weep (if you're a printmaker); the battle seems to be uphill and pointless.
As a printmaker, and an active participant in the printmaking community (both online and locally), I strive very hard, along with my fellow printmakers, to educate about prints and printmaking vs reproduction prints. I have found that the worst response tends to come from other artists: "Why do you make such a big fuss over such a small nomenclature distinction?"
For traditional printmakers, the concept of the reproduction is not new - after all, lithographs, serigraphs (screen prints), and even block prints were regarded as "cheap" reproductive, quick and dirty methods of creating an image multiple times. Yet in all of these printmaking methods, there is a physical process involved where an artist, or craftsman (or team of craftsmen) working under the guidance of an artist, directly manipulates a "plate" of some kind (wood block, limestone block, silk screen) to create an image which is then transferred, one at a time, to a support. I just can't justify mass reproduction where machinery does pretty much all the work as the equivalent of an original print method. Printmakers take great pride in the craftsmanship and skill required to master their chosen print methodology.
On top of all of this, printmakers are sick and tired of having to qualify their term "print" in an effort to distinguish it from "reproduction". On the Wet Canvas! printmakers discussion forum, we have had many long rants about the "print vs reproduction" topic, as well as what to call an "original art print", which seems so cumbersome. After lots of interesting opinions, no one has yet come up with a particularly good alternative. Branding is everything, as it were, and printmakers need a really good ad agency to help us rise to the occasion!
I do understand the economic benefits to reproduction of original art, and I'm not trying to imply that there isn't a place in the art market for reproductions; after all, not everyone can afford an original Robert Genn or Emily Carr. But perhaps opportunities to provide art-lovers with small gems of original art should be encouraged (with ACEO/ATC as a great example), rather than resorting to the quick fix of the reproduction. And original print art can be one of the solutions to the economic quandary: by their nature, and by the public opinion that anything in an "edition" must be worth less than something that's one of a kind (even though each print requires equal effort to create in order to be considered acceptable to be included in an edition), original prints are usually very reasonably priced, and it's often easy to find "shrink wrapped" versions for an even more economical choice.
So please, artists, consider the use of the term "print" vs "reproduction" carefully. For every "print" out there that isn't created using a printmaking (as opposed to reproductive) process, you are denigrating the art of the original print.