Tamarind Institute, The University of New Mexico’s premier lithography workshop, is open to students and will once again conduct its monthly tours for members of the public who want to experience the fascinating artistic printing process.

During the pandemic shutdown, Tamarind stayed busy, with safety protocols in place.

Paula Wilson stone
Artist Paula Wilson uncovering a stone in the workshop

Tamarind was fortunate to have a few projects lined up with New Mexico artists, including five artists who took part in the Tipping Points project sponsored by the City of Albuquerque Public Art Program, and invited artists Paula Wilson, Rose B. Simpson, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith,” said director Diana Gaston. “Tamarind is designated as a laboratory by the University, so our workshop has been operating with strict safety protocols and limited staff over the past year.

"Our extended Frederick Hammersley Artist Residency with Ellen Lesperance was able to continue as planned last summer; she traveled from Portland, Oregon, for the residency and agreed to quarantine during the first two weeks of her residency. Some artists continued their collaborations remotely, with our printers sending proofs back and forth through FedEx. Overall, we have an incredibly diligent and intrepid team of artists and printers who found creative solutions and met each new challenge.”

Tamarind employs students as gallery assistants, marketing interns, videographers, photographers, and workshop assistants. This fall in addition to student hires, Tamarind will employ two research assistants, one as an apprentice printer in the workshop as the Frederick Hammersley Apprentice Printer. In 2016, the Frederick Hammersley Foundation initiated the Frederick Hammersley Artist Residency and the Frederick Hammersley Apprentice Printer programs at Tamarind as part of the foundation’s mission to expand the public’s awareness of Hammersley’s art and life, promote the value of art in the life of the community, and support the advancement of artists’ education and creative processes through funding for research and scholarships for art students and other practitioners of the arts.

Right now, Tamarind is featuring a selection of new editions in the gallery, including work by Judy Chicago, Noel Anderson, Inka Bell, Mark Dion, Ellen Lesperance, Harold Mendez, Aaron Noble, and Danielle Orchard.

The institute is open to visitors Fridays 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment. Three monthly public tours are scheduled for Sept. 10, Oct. 1, and Nov. 5. Schedule reservations on the Tamarind website for spots on the tours.

Gaston noted that Tamarind holds a vast inventory of some 8,000 lithographs from its 60-year history of print publishing, adding, “Students and visitors are encouraged to make appointments with any requests to see specific prints. We are happy to pull prints for individuals to view. And there is always something interesting to see in the gallery.”

Gaston reflected on the past several months during the shutdown: “As active as we have been over the past year with virtual public programming, there is no substitute for standing in front of a hand-pulled print and observing the exchange of ideas between artist and printer in the workshop. The workshop is fueled by the energy the artists and printers bring to the collaboration, and we have all missed that.”

How it’s done
Unlike woodcut and intaglio, lithography is a chemical medium, based on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. The artist draws with a greasy material – using a grease crayon or liquid tusche applied with a brush – onto a prepared matrix of either limestone or an aluminum plate. Once the drawing is completed, the printer stabilizes the image for printing. The printer first sprinkles rosin on the surface to protect the drawing, then applies talc to the surface, which helps the chemical etch to lie more closely to the greasy particles of the drawing. The matrix is treated with a chemical solution consisting of gum arabic and nitric acid, known as an “etch,” that helps to bond the greasy drawing material to the surface. The stone or plate is then wiped down with a solvent to dissolve most of the drawing materials, leaving only a ghost version.

The barely visible drawing is now able to accept the printing inks, and the moistened areas that are blank are able to reject the printing inks. The stone or plate is moistened with water, with the printer “sponging” throughout the printing process. Oil-based printing ink is applied with a roller, adhering only to the positive parts of the image, while being repelled by the wet areas. A sheet of paper is placed on top of the inked matrix and then run through the press. The pressure from the press transfers the image to the paper.

Lithography was invented in 1789 by Alois Senefelder in Munich, apparently by accident. Of the printmaking techniques, lithography has the most thoroughly documented history. Tamarind was founded in Los Angeles in 1960 to revive and preserve fine art lithography in the United States and moved to UNM in 1970.

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