On its 50th birthday, Thursday, July 1, the Tamarind Institute officially opens its new home at 2500 Central Avenue SE. The newly renovated space is steeped in tradition, from the workshop where artists and artisan printers collaborate in a 200-year-old art form to a planned donor wall to be made with stone from the same quarry used by Aloys Senefelder, who invented lithography in 1798.
"We have lots more space for our students, which they desperately needed," said Marjorie Devon, who has been director for half of Tamarind's history, since 1985. "Literally, they spend 80 hours a week here."
Peter Haarz, a student starting his second year at Tamarind as senior printer fellow, said he appreciates being "part of a community with a shared commitment to a craft."
Haarz only had three degrees of separation from Tamarind before becoming a student there – he studied with Ron Wyffels, who worked with Jack Lemon, who was taught by Garo Antreasian, Tamarind's first technical director, and June Wayne, Tamarind's founding director.
"When Tamarind was founded, the idea was to rescue a dying art," Devon said. "June's idea was that the way to revive lithography – because it's so complicated – was to train master printers who would be accessible to artists."
Wayne, now 92, will give a talk during Tamarind's Fabulous at 50 Symposium and Birthday Bash, Friday, Sept. 10-Sunday, Sept. 12: "Life and Litho: June Wayne Tells It Like It Is." The symposium is expected to draw printers and collectors from around the world.
Printmaking With a Personal Touch
Tamarind's founders also hoped to create a market by educating the public, a goal the new space lends itself to well. A digital slide show documenting the lithographic process will be visible through a large window facing Central Avenue. Other windows give a glimpse into the press room.
To create a lithograph, the artist draws an image with greasy materials on a stone or metal plate, with a separate plate for each color in the final print. The method "requires that artists shift their thought processes," Devon said, "so artists can go to a place they otherwise might not." The medium encourages experimentation because artists can try out different colors or papers – which can produce quite different results – without losing the original image.
The printing process relies on the repulsion of grease and water. The printer chemically treats the plates to stabilize the image for printing.
"It's an incredibly sensuous medium," Haarz said.
The Rest is History
The institute spent its first 10 years in Los Angeles as the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, funded by the Ford Foundation. Tamarind moved to UNM, where the second director, Clinton Adams, was dean of UNM's College of Fine Arts.
Since the move, Tamarind has become primarily self-supported through contract printing and the sale of published prints, with some funding from the university, grants and donations.
Devon said by the late 1980s, hundreds of lithography workshops geared toward printer-artist collaboration had opened. Tamarind then expanded its reach to international audiences. Tamarind-trained printers from Mexico, South Africa, Finland and Germany will present a panel discussion, "Globetrotting: Tamarind Printers Abroad," during the Fabulous at 50 Symposium.
The digital age turned the tide again, with digital art displacing hands-on printmaking.
"I feel like we've come full circle," Devon said. Once again, "We're the keepers of the tradition of fine art lithography."
"Any traditional craft or art form, for the diversity of human experience, needs to be safe-guarded," Haarz said.
Tamarind Institute events:
Thursday, July 1
Tamarind's new building at 2500 Central Avenue SE is dedicated 50 years to the day from the workshop's opening in Los Angeles. The dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony begin at 11 a.m., followed by an open house noon-4 p.m.
Saturday, July 17
Support Tamarind and pick up work tables, papers, books and more at the Moving Leftover Sale, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10-Sunday, Sept. 12
Celebrate with Tamarind at the Fabulous at 50 Symposium and Birthday Bash. Registration for the full symposium is $125 before Sunday, Aug. 1, $150 after. Individual sessions are $30. Visit tamarind.unm.edu or call (505) 277-3901.
Friday, Sept. 10-Sunday, Dec. 19
"Tamarind Touchstones: Fabulous at 50, Celebrating Excellence in Fine Art Lithography" shows five decades of Tamarind prints in an exhibition organized by Tamarind and the UNM Art Museum.