Gemini G.E.L.: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1966–2005
The original mission of the Gemini partners was to publish prints by mature masters. In keeping with this aim, the workshop's first important project engaged Josef Albers, an eminent painter and printmaker who was then approaching 80. Albers' sequence of 17 lithographs titled White Line Squares (2.1–2.17) called for precise color mixing as well as stringent registration techniques (proper alignment for each color printed on the sheet). The success of the project established Gemini's reputation as a workshop capable of meeting artists' technical challenges.
Shifting its goal from the collaboration with artists from Albers' generation, Gemini soon began to foster collaborations with younger artists. Working with Robert Rauschenberg initiated this shift, and the first collaboration was a spectacular success, culminating in the completion of his 72-inch-tall lithograph/screenprint Booster (41.9). Following this exhilarating first experience, Gemini published other landmark lithographs throughout the late 1960s, among them Jasper Johns' Color Numeral Series (26.12–26.21) and Roy Lichtenstein's Cathedral Series (31.1–31.8). Moreover, in 1967, Frank Stella made his very first prints at the young California workshop, including Star of Persia I (51.1). This list illustrates the young workshop's power to attract some of the most prominent artists of the day. However, while attracting important artists from the east to California, Gemini also collaborated with notable artists based on the West Coast, among them William Crutchfield (11.1–11.21).
During Gemini's early years, there was a strong emphasis on research and development as collaborators invented new methods for basic tasks such as mixing huge quantities of ink. Large images required the development of increasingly larger presses as well as papers. These new machines enabled the shop to greatly expand the quality of its productions by including both the beautiful handmade and the fine machine-made paper sheets that may be seen throughout Gemini's oeuvre. In all of the areas most crucial to the development of contemporary printmaking, Gemini was a major participant.
In 1968, Claes Oldenburg's idea for Profile Airflow (38.13) sparked the workshop's interest in three-dimensional pieces. From that point onward, Gemini's experimental stance nurtured sculpture projects that became important components of the workshop's repertoire. Oldenburg's undulating Ice Bag, which was also important among early sculpture collaborations, was produced in three scales (38.22–38.24). The largest of them, 18 feet in diameter and rising to a height of 16 feet, was exhibited at the 1970 Osaka World's Fair, thereby bringing Gemini G.E.L. to the attention of an international public. Oldenburg continued to create imaginative sculpture and prints at Gemini into the 1970s. After a hiatus, he returned in the 1990s to create such delights as Profiterole (38.44), a hand-painted cast-aluminum sculpture of a dessert, and Sneaker Lace Sculpture (38.61), an unraveled tennis shoe masquerading in the shape of a palm tree. The sneaker lace subject brought the creative process full circle; this sculpture has roots in Oldenburg's first Gemini project, the 1968 Gemini Notes portfolio of prints (38.1–38.12) where the theme originally appeared as a part of untitled (Sneaker Lace) (38.2).
Other early collaborators at Gemini included Man Ray, who created a lithograph and two screenprints in 1966 (32.1–32.3). Both Joseph Raffael (40.1) and Ben Shahn (48.1) produced a single lithograph in 1966. John Altoon did the same in 1967 (3.1), less than two years before his untimely death. Wayne Thiebaud created two prints in 1967 (52.1–52.2), and Anni Albers issued three in 1968 (1.1–1.3). Ronald Davis began an extended relationship with the workshop in 1969 that continued well into the 1980s (13.1). These artists all worked directly with Kenneth Tyler, who was manager of the shop from 1966 to 1973.
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