New York

“Monumental Prints”

Both artists in this show, Georg Baselitz and Rolf Iseli, offer a distinctive vision worthy of inspection in its own right, but the subject of this discussion is the general/issue that both address here, namely, “monumental prints.” It is no secret to art audiences today that paintings have gotten larger; so too have prints and drawings. While the reasons for this can vary according to the individual artist, the development toward big, bigger, biggest is related to a heightened interest in the pictorial. Transcending media, this sensibility helps to blur the traditional distinctions between painting, drawing, and printmaking, and stresses the importance of image. This “new graphic sensibility,” as I call it, is also evident in the notably direct, aggressive way the art objects in question communicate visual information. These qualities are visible in both Baselitz’s and Iseli’s work here; Baselitz’s is the more illustrative of them, and the more intense.

The artist’s experiences with printmaking go back to his etchings and woodcuts from the mid ’60s; in 1976 he began making large linoleum-cut prints. Covering the years 1977 to 1981, the works in this show ranged in size from approximately 65 by 40 inches to 100 by 60 inches. In Elke in Profile, 1977, Woman in Window, 1981, and the others, certain typical pleasures of print-viewing are still available; these concern the beauty of delicately shaded lines and intricately detailed passages, as well as luminous surfaces and textures. Several examples, including the two cited above, are handpainted, and Baselitz’s bold use of color—black, white, and red are effectively employed—coupled with his large-scale format, dynamizes, aggrandizes, and in the process totally pictorializes these features of the print. While most prints invite intimate, close-up examination, in these works distance is critical to the release of the images’ expressive potential. The pictures travel outward and envelop the audience: in each a human figure twists, turns, and finally integrates with the surround, a mysterious space teeming with emotion. These works on paper have the kind of visual presence and persuasiveness we once associated only with painting.

Ronny Cohen