Gemini G.E.L.: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1966–2005
In recent decades, American artists have discovered innovative forms for their work by exploring new concepts and materials. At the same time, by incorporating ideas from fields including philosophy, linguistics, and the performing arts, they have broadened our understanding of the nature of art objects. A growing number of artists have undertaken their investigations by making prints and sculpture in multiple original editions. These complex endeavors have often entailed the collaboration with specially skilled printers and other artisans to realize their aesthetic goals. Gemini G.E.L. (Graphic Editions Limited), a publishing workshop in Los Angeles, has been at the forefront of these exciting developments in contemporary art. Their groundbreaking creations include prints in lithography, etching, woodcut, and screenprint, often used in combination, as well as sculpture in diverse media.
The National Gallery of Art is the home of the flourishing Gemini G.E.L. Archive, which is intended to include one example of each edition published at Gemini while preserving selected rare proof impressions, unique working material, and related photographs and documents. Founded by Sidney B. Felsen, Stanley Grinstein, and Kenneth Tyler (Tyler left the partnership in 1973 to establish Tyler Graphics Ltd.), Gemini's facilities have evolved and expanded in response to the needs of the artists who have worked there. The Gemini G.E.L. online catalogue raisonné documents the first 40 years of work at Gemini G.E.L., from the workshop's founding in 1966 through 2005. Included are more than 2,000 print and sculpture editions by many of the most important and influential artists of our time. Additions of more recent publications will be made periodically.
Varied in materials and techniques, Gemini's publications also reflect the explosive diversity of image, form, and intellectual discourse that engage artists today. Its Los Angeles location has been important in the development of many of Gemini's unique attitudes and capabilities. The forceful imagination of the film industry, the highly refined technical capabilities of the aircraft and aerospace industries, a sympathetic climate, and a West Coast frontier mentality rooted in the belief that anything is possible have all contributed to the publisher's wide range of achievements.
Gemini's first workshop consisted of a small artist's studio and a lithography shop. Etching, woodcut, and screenprinting were rarely called for, and many aspects of sculpture projects were handled by outside contractors in the Los Angeles area. In 1969, Gemini responded to the need for more expansive in-house capabilities by moving to larger quarters that still function as the heart of the operation. In the same year the publishers also improved the facilities by equipping screenprinting and sculpture workshops, which continued to be maintained at Gemini throughout the early 1970s. Since that time, many projects requiring these facilities have often been completed by working with independent shops operated by former Gemini employees. At the same time, Gemini's in-house capabilities have broadened the nature of the projects conducted there: an etching shop was added in 1979, equipped with two presses and staffed by two and sometimes three printers. Another addition was the building of a second artist's studio, an improvement that allows two artists to work in privacy simultaneously. Presently Gemini is equipped with four presses and staffed by four full-time printers with additional staff called in as needed.
Collaboration between artists and the Gemini printers and artisans is a three-part process. First, the artist defines the project, often before coming to the workshop. This investigative step may take the form of written notations, sketches, or highly finished drawings, collages, and maquettes (models for three-dimensional pieces). However, the origins of the project may not be communicated in such a formal manner: the concept may remain an idea in the artist's mind that takes form only when work with the collaborators begins.
In a second step, discussion of the project takes place among the artist, the publishers, the head of the shop, and other experts as required. With preliminary plans set, the artist and collaborators work to complete proofs (test impressions, for a print project) or prototypes (test objects, for sculpture). In doing so, concepts and process come together. Collaboration is at its height during the challenging process of finding the means to translate an idea into appropriate tangible form. While the artist always defines the aesthetics of the project, the collaborator's role is to help the artist accomplish the desired results. As Sidney Felsen noted, "We're a support system, not a cocreator. Each artist is the captain of the ship while he or she is here."
Producing editions, the third stage of the working process, entails printing a set number of impressions or fabricating a specific number of objects, each identical to all of the others. Artist and publisher agree upon the edition size. When completed, the edition is reviewed by Gemini curators who isolate any impressions or objects that do not meet the standards set by the artist. These are destroyed. For prints, unique trial sheets, some of them drawn on by hand as part of the proofing process, are set apart as well. Edition impressions and proofs are then signed, numbered, and special annotations are added to proofs by the artist. For dimensional pieces, variant prototypes may also be completed during the preliminary investigations. While all of the projects produced at Gemini go through this basic process, each one is characterized by a unique exchange of ideas, skills, and energy that presents new challenges to the artists and collaborators. A pervasive attitude of caring and commitment to the art created by this collaboration is reflected in the character of the works represented here.
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| The 1970s | Robert Rauschenberg
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