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The 70th A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts: Contact: Art and the Pull of Print, Part 3: Separation

Jennifer L. Roberts, Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University. In this six-part lecture series titled Contact: Art and the Pull of Print, Roberts focuses on printmaking as an art of physical contact, involving transfer under pressure between surfaces—a direct touch that can evoke multiple forms of intimacy. And yet it is simultaneously an art of estrangement: it requires the deferral, displacement, and distribution of artistic agency, and it trades in reversal and inversion. In this third lecture, “Separation,” premiered on the National Gallery’s website on May 9, 2021, Roberts explores how in printmaking, color must be broken down and reassembled through separation, layering, sequencing, and registration. Most color prints are, in essence, piles of broken color: stratified, even geological affairs that bear little relation to the fluid spontaneity that is often associated with color in other media. Thinking through color separation suggests new models of the image as a structure of assembly and risk and opens a space for examining the intersection of print and critical race theory.