This year marks the end of an era at the University of New Mexico's Tamarind Institute, when three litho legends plan their retirements.
Tamarind Director Marjorie Devon has 38 years and plans to retire the end of January of next year; Tamarind master printer and workshop manager, Bill Lagattuta has 27 years and retires in July; and Tamarind education director, Rodney Hamon has16 years and plans to retire at year's end. Combined, Devon, Lagattuta and Hamon have contributed more than 75 years of service to fine art lithography at Tamarind Institute.
In its 55 years, Tamarind has had only three directors: June Wayne, who founded Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles in 1960; Clinton Adams, credited with moving Tamarind to the University of New Mexico in 1970; and Marjorie Devon.
After the first two directors fulfilled much of Tamarind's original mission to revive fine art lithography in the United States, Devon expanded the scope internationally. In an article published in Look Lateral, an Italian art magazine, Devon said, "By the time I became director in 1985, in concert with a strong economy and vigorous art market, lithography experienced a great renaissance in the United States and many of the most important late 20th century artists were deeply committed to its visual language." Devon had a bigger vision for Tamarind, and Devon, Lagattuta, and Hamon's tenure is marked by much growth and expansion both within and outside of the United States.
The threesome collaborated on numerous projects, including producing the book Tamarind Techniques for Fine Art Lithography (New York: Abrams, 2008). Affectionately known as the "bible" of lithography, this comprehensive and detailed tome, which covers all facets of fine art lithography, from setting up a workshop to printing a successful edition, is found in workshops and libraries around the world.
Two years after the publication of Tamarind Techniques, Tamarind celebrated its 50th anniversary, and moved to its new home at 2500 Central Avenue SE. After nearly 40 years in an old grocery warehouse on Cornell Avenue SE, the new building, designed by local architect Devendra Contractor, addressed every need, including expanded storage, studio and classroom spaces, a library and a proper exhibition space. Every shred of Devon, Lagattuta and Hamon's accumulated knowledge about workshop layout and functions contributed to planning the new building. According to Devon, "The new building provides our students and visiting artists with an efficient and beautiful workspace, reinforcing Tamarind's creative spirit."
Under Devon's leadership, and success in securing outside funding, Lagattuta and Hamon printed lithographs with artists and trained students from all corners of the globe. Tamarind's reach extended well beyond the United States, which is evident in the number of international applications received each year for its one-year intensive Professional Printer Training program.
Grants have allowed Tamarind to invite artists from a large array of geographies and political ideologies. From 2002 to 2004, just after the Balkan Wars, artists from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia worked together at Tamarind with collaborative printers. In 2006, another grant from the Trust for Mutual Understanding funded workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia, taught by Hamon, Lagattuta and two Tamarind students, and an exhibition of Tamarind lithographs at the Anna Akhmatova Museum in Russia. Subsequently, five Russian artists came to Tamarind and created a suite of prints. Other projects included Brazilian and American artists of African descent, indigenous Australian artists, Native American artists from various regions across the United States, Naro-speaking San artists from Botswana and local artists, including artists from homeless shelters, senior centers and schools throughout New Mexico.
Devon landed in Albuquerque after studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduating with a degree in French from UC Berkeley. She also pursued graduate studies in art history and design. Devon has lectured around the world on topics related to Tamarind and American printmaking, curated and juried numerous exhibitions, and edited three books, in addition to writing Tamarind Techniques. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Fine Print Dealers' Association and the Frederick Hammersley Foundation. Devon became director of Tamarind in 1985.
Bill Lagattuta received his BA from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., in 1973, and his MFA from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1975. He completed his Tamarind Master Printer training in 1979. Lagattuta worked at Peregrine Press, Master Editions, Sette Publishing, and Vermillion Editions before joining the Tamarind staff in 1988.
Lagattuta's impact on contemporary art is evident in the more than 600 editions completed during his 27 year tenure, with artists who work in many different genres. In 2000, Lagattuta began working with Jim Dine on a series of lithographs for a book, Tools for Creely. During that initial collaboration, Lagattuta and Dine developed a strong friendship, and Dine has since produced more than 36 lithographs with Lagattuta at Tamarind.
Among the many other artists who have collaborated with Lagattuta are: Tamarind founders June Wayne, Clinton Adams, and Garo Antreasian; Polly Apfelbaum, Amy Cutler, Roy DeForest, Tony Delap, Lesley Dill, Walton Ford, Hung Liu, Nicola López, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Ed Ruscha, Kiki Smith and William Wiley.
Rodney Hamon's mark on lithography is equally impressive. As Tamarind's education director, Hamon guided more than 300 students through advanced lithographic techniques, from test washes to photo plates. Hamon completed his undergraduate work at Chico State University in 1979, received his Tamarind Master Printer Certificate in 1987, and then went on to complete his MFA (Printmaking, 1992) at the University of New Mexico. Before joining Tamarind in 1999, he taught printmaking at the University of New Mexico and worked at Origins Press, Western Graphics, Watson Paper Company and Houston Fine Arts Press.
To celebrate its 55th anniversary, and honor the retirees, Tamarind plans a weekend-long Apex of an Era Jubilee for September. The festivities begin on Friday, Sept. 11, with the opening of Mementos, an exhibition in the Tamarind Gallery showcasing memorabilia from the Marge/Bill/Rodney era, as well as memorabilia from Tamarind's first 10 years in Los Angeles. Tamarind will transform its gallery into the Smithsonian of lithography.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, from 4 - 6 p.m., the Tamarind National Advisory Board hosts the third Win/Win Art Lottery. This national fundraising event will be held at the Richard Levy Gallery in downtown Albuquerque. The official retirement/anniversary bash, the Prints Charming Ball, take place Saturday evening at the magical Las Puertas, north of downtown Albuquerque.
Finally, on Sunday morning, Sept. 13, students of lithography (past and present), and others interested in reminiscing about the history of printmaking in America, are invited to gather for conversation with Tamarind's first technical director, Garo Antreasian.
Tamarind Institute, a division of the UNM College of Fine Arts, is a nonprofit center for fine art lithography that trains master printers and houses a professional collaborative studio for artists. More information is available online at Tamarind Institute or by calling (505) 277.3901.