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Exhibition focuses on atworks that are purposely and strategically hard to see
Installation view.

NEW YORK, NY.- International Print Center New York is presenting Edge Visibility, curated in conjunction with the September–October issue of the scholarly journal Art in Print by its editor-in-chief, Susan Tallman. The issue focuses on atworks that are purposely and strategically hard to see; since such works are by nature extremely difficult to reproduce, the accompanying exhibition provides the opportunity to experience them in all their elusive and evasive presence. Among the more than 50 works on view are prints from the 17th century to the present—laborious micro-engravings, subtle watermarks, and evanescent images printed with UV-reactive inks.

The material properties of specific print techniques are critical to how these works court and tease the eye. Chris Ofili’s multi-layered, opalescent etching portfolio Black Shunga, 2008–15 relies on threadlike, nearly imperceptible lines, as do Walid Raad’s white-on-white line etchings for Views from Inner to Outer Compartments (2013), though in quite a different context. Meanwhile, the abstract expressionist painter Boris Margo used a technique of his own invention, “cellocut,” in inkless reliefs.

Such visual hurdles work to make visitors conscious of the act of looking; at IPCNY magnifying glasses, iPad digital enlargers, and special lighting are provided for enhanced viewing. Rare historical works of virtuosic micrography by Johann Michael Püchler, Levi David van Gelder, and William Pratt all create images from minuscule texts, while Matthew Kenyon and Douglas Easterly’s Notepad (2007) and Fiona Banner’s Top Gun (1996) bring the tradition into the present, using micrographic text to present vast amounts of information on, respectively, “blank” yellow notepads and a small print formatted like a movie screen. Director Judy Hecker captures the prominence of micrography in Edge of Visibility, saying, "IPCNY is thrilled to be partnering with Art in Print – two organizations dedicated to advancing the field of print – and especially on a topic where text and looking are welcomed partners, and are inextricably intertwined in many of the works.”

The screenprints of Ad Reinhardt (1966) and the lithographs of Susan York (2015) require a different form of visual attention—time spent letting the eye accommodate itself to minimal distinctions in hue and surface reflectivity.

“Viewing,” says guest curator Susan Tallman, “is at the heart of this exercise—what it means to see, physically, metaphysically, socially, and politically.” In Philippe Parreno’s Fade to Black (2005), visibility and its opposite take on intimations of mortality: in normal light, the prints appear to be solid rectangles of color; when the lights are switched off, however, phosphorescent images bloom, only to die off into darkness until they are recharged.

Low visibility acts as a metaphor for racial invisibility in a number of works. Samuel Levi Jones and Kerry James Marshall depict black figures against black backgrounds, recasting a societal refusal to see as an optical challenge to seeing. Glenn Ligon, revisiting printing plates from an earlier etching project, trades black-on-black for beige-on-cream, to make a nuanced point about social and chromatic contrast. Black-onblack also appears as a strategy for memorializing traumatic events. In their 2001 New Yorker cover, Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly marked the shock of 9/11 through black silhouettes of the Twin Towers against a black background; more recently Megan Foster’s screenprint of a black flag at half mast against a foreboding charcoal sky captures the fears for democracy many felt in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election.

Fiona Banner, Barbara Bloom, Jacques Callot, Megan Foster, Levi David van Gelder, Samuel Levi Jones, William Kentridge, Matthew Kenyon & Douglas Easterly, Glenn Ligon, Christian Marclay, Boris Margo, Kerry James Marshall, Chris Ofili, Philippe Parreno, William Pratt, Johann Michael Püchler, Walid Raad, Ad Reinhardt, Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly, Timorous Beasties (Alistair McAuley & Paul Simmons), and Susan York

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