Robert Rauschenberg, Christian Marclay, James Rosenquist. Big names to be sure, but prestigious alliances alone haven’t pushed USF Graphicstudio to the forefront of the art world.
Credit the non-profit workshop’s indefatigable spirit — its boundary-busting knack for collaboration, its friendly openness, and its sense of fun. Graphicstudio has become a fantasy camp for artists of all levels, from grad students to world-famous icons.
“I usually refer to Graphicstudio as my studio away from my studio,” said turntablist-turned-print provocateur Marclay. “It’s a place where I can be creative far from the big-city distractions and completely immerse myself in work.”
Throughout the studio’s nearly 46-year history, its personnel has assisted artists in residence with thrift shopping, dumpster diving and collaborating with geologists, doctors and scientists to create works conceived in their wildest dreams. Because it is the largest publicly funded atelier (printmaking workshop) based at a university and blessed with its many resources, Graphicstudio has been a boon to the arts community and students alike.
The facility is free and open daily. “Anyone can come in and see the artists working and talk to them,” said Sarah Howard, curator of public art and social practice. “We are very accessible.”
Apart from its annual public sales and a smattering of other events, however, Graphicstudio hadn’t exhibited on a large scale since a National Gallery of Art show in 1991. So, nearly three years ago, USF Institute of Research and Art Director Margaret Miller and Todd Smith, executive director of the Tampa Museum of Art, teamed up in an effort to corral works originating from Graphicstudio — some from private collections and major institutions around the world — and offer the public a massive, 15,000-square-foot retrospective at downtown’s sleek waterfront museum by Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
When the Museum opened Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice at USF
on Feb. 1, it not only beamed a spotlight on an institution that gives us bragging rights not typically bestowed on a metro of our size and often questionable repute. Of even more significance, Uncommon Practice
has launched a landmark collaboration that Museum director Smith says will continue in projects to come — including this summer’s major Chinese contemporary art exhibition co-presented by the Museum and St. Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Art. Graphicstudio’s spirit of collaboration has provided an analog to the emergence of Tampa Bay’s arts scene as a whole, offering our area a unique claim to fame. “There’s no one like us in this regard,” said Miller.
Through its current collaboration, Tampa Museum of Art has brought wide attention to an enormous repository of art — from Chuck Close’s ultra-realistic portraiture enhanced by Graphicstudio’s signature photogravure process to Roy Lichtenstein and Diana Al-Hadid’s otherworldly sculpture cast in bronze molds. The works highlight both technical and conceptual breakthroughs from Graphicstudio’s four-plus decades and includes works by 20th-century greats like Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Allan McCollum, Louse Bourgeois, Jim Dine, and more recent art stars such as Marclay, Mark Dion, Teresita Fernández, Los Carpinteros and Trenton Doyle Hancock.
From McCollum’s room-dominating, 1,000-plus framed first names to Graciela’s Iturbide’s photo of a Mexican indigenous woman carrying a boom box, the works range from massive and immersive to conceptual and personal.
Miller and Smith, with the help of independent curator Jade Dellinger, scored 45 of the 108 artists who have had residencies at the studio since its inception in 1968. Their alliance offers a textbook lesson in effective teamwork.
Lesson 1: Loyalty. Dellinger has a long history with both institutions. Not only was he a student of Miller’s, he curated with USF CAM and TMA the Art In the News series that Miller and he conceived for the Tampa Tribune as a millennial project, recently seen at the CAM @ 25
show at USF Contemporary Art Museum.
At the Tampa Museum, he curated exhibitions showcasing The Art Guys, Keith Haring, Ann Hamilton, sound artist Andrew Deutsch and John Cage’s 33-1/3 — Performed by Audience
, which traveled on to the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison State College in Fort Myers, where he is now the director. A Yoko Ono show is up through Saturday at the South Florida venue.
“From the onset, it was quite clear to me that Graphicstudio has done a rather remarkable job of attracting leading international artists and producing work of the highest possible quality,” said Dellinger. “It is a testament to those directors, but also the master printers, sculpture fabricators and skilled technicians who do the research and are involved directly in the collaboration with visiting artists.”
Dellinger made the final decisions about which works to include, but he says there were many factors involved, and both Smith and Miller were consulted at every stage. His initial plan was to exhibit 25 artists, but that number nearly doubled.
“There simply was too much material,” he said. “We all had our favorites — or those projects we thought were most important — so it was often a negotiation. And I believe the show is much stronger as a result of the vigorous dialogue that ensued.”
We would need a separate feature to go into the multitude of processes and resources used to create the works in the show and at Graphicstudio overall. You could spend a day inspecting the layers and variety of technique in a single work. Some more recent artists even go from digital back to the most old-fashioned methods of printing, such as Marclay’s giant cyanotype of unfurled audiocassettes in "Allover (Rush, Barbara Streisand, Tina Turner, and Others)."
Other works are striking by virtue of their boldness and uniqueness. Al Hadid’s “Mortal Repose,” on display outdoors, reveals a woman in a state of decomposition as if melting over a giant concrete plinth. It has a darkly humorous footnote: the woman’s detached feet can be found at the bottom of the plinth. Equally striking but less macabre works can be found inside, such as Keith Edmier’s "Fireweed," created with vinyl over steel floral vine, dental acrylic, vinyl monofilament and acrylic paint — and dusted with volcanic ash from the Mount St. Helens eruption of 1980.
CL got an opportunity to visit
the studio where the magic happens. The clean, welcoming facility offers a gallery of works past and present and comprises an etching/print studio for intaglio processes headed by Master Printer Tim Baker; a digital lab for sculpture and print projects and an image archive; the exposure/wet process studio, a dark room for exposing films to plates and other light-sensitive techniques; a print studio for lithography, screen print, letterpress and other processes headed by multimedia studio Master Printer Tom Pruitt, and The Vault, overseen by Curator and Registrar Kristin DuFrain — the “clean area” for curation and storage of hundreds of first edition prints that you can only see with the escort of a Graphicstudio employee.
During our visit, current artist-in-residence Kalup Linzy, a Florida native and New York-based performance/visual artist and USF grad, was planning photo shoots. His success story is a prime example of Graphicstudio’s willingness to nurture talent within the USF community in addition to bringing in the big names of the art world.
During Linzy’s graduate studies, USF gave him free rein to launch a highly unconventional and campy project involving intertwined, loosely autobiographical characters. The works spawned an Internet soap opera series (with characters mostly performed and all voiced by Linzy) that brought him national renown. He has worked at Harvard and collaborated with celebs like Michael Stipe, Chloe Sevigny and James Franco, who in trademark meta-weird fashion cast Linzy in a two-week stint on General Hospital after attending the artist’s Columbia University lecture.
For his residence at Graphicstudio, Linzy is working on large photogravures and other prints of his characters as part of a family tree archival project and movie based on his series.
“I’ve always wanted to, at some point in my career, push the work in another dimension,” he shared. “But I feel like it also takes time and has to happen organically and not be a forced thing.”
If it weren’t for such freedoms afforded at USF and Graphicstudio, Linzy might have never had the chance to take his work to the next level.
We can only imagine the discoveries that await as Graphicstudio pushes on to its half-century milestone.
Graphicstudio: Uncommon Practice at USF can be viewed at Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, through May 18, tampamuseum.org.
Graphicstudio is open Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday 1-4 p.m. at 3702 Spectrum Blvd #100, Tampa; 813-974-3503; graphicstudio.usf.edu.
See Kalup Linzy's videos at youtube.com/user/kklinzy.