25 Years: Brooke Alexander Editions
January 27 - May 18, 1994
by Wendy Weitman, Department
of Prints and Illustrated Books
In 1961, after graduating in classics from Yale University, Alexander retuned to his native Los Angeles and involved himself in the city's burgeoning art world, meeting artists Joe Goode, Ed Moses, Bob Irwin and Ed Ruscha, among others. In 1965 he accepted a job at Marlborough Gallery and moved to New York. He was given responsibility for the gallery's print inventory, both modern master and contemporary, and gained his first real exposure to prints. He later managed the New York office to the London-based Editions Alecto where he coordinated his first publishing project, Larry Zox's series of six screenprints, Diamond Girls. By the late 1960's American print publishing was thriving, but Editions Alecto was reducing its scope and Alexander decided to begin publishing on his own.
In November of 1968 he and his wife, Carolyn, opened Brooke Alexander, Inc, in a storefront on East 68th Street. They began publishing slowly. One of their first projects, Richard Artschwager's set of multiples, Locations, 1969, evidences Alexander's venturesome eye and collaborative approach to publishing. Struck by an exhibition of the artist's formica, furniture-like sculpture at Leo Castelli Gallery, Alexander determined to invite Artschwager to make a multiple edition of his objects. The innovative six-part piece contains the artist's signature form, rounded rectangles that he called "blps" made of horsehair, Plexiglas, wood and pieces of mirror that can be installed in any configuration in any space. Locations was Artschwager's first multiple and signaled the beginning of a fascinating body of projects by the artist and publisher. Three years later Alexander published one of Artschwager's more haunting prints, the screenprint Interiors. Its shadowy, gray printing of a repeated room contributes a murky, almost sinister, sense to the elegant surroundings.
Another artist whose work concerned issues of abstraction within a realist style is Jennifer Bartlett. Her monumental, five-part print Graceland Mansion, 1979, incorporates drypoint, aquatint, screenprint, woodcut and lithography, each with its own idiosyncratic markings, not unlike her panel paintings at the time that also combined disparate styles. Bartlett was particularly ambitious to employ five different printmaking techniques in this project as she has worked only in drypoint up to this point. Each medium represents a different time of day: the delicate marks of drypoint depicting dawn, the bright dabs throughout the silkscreen panel for high noon, and the trio of darker brushstrokes in the lithograph for dusk. For Alexander this project demanded careful coordination between a variety of printers. Bartlett worked on all five images simultaneously; meetings were held with all the printers to establish ink colors and paper type so as to insure a measure of uniformity between the panels. Bartlett understood the subtleties of each medium and Graceland Mansion, in all its complexity, marked the first of many, large-scale, multi-panel prints.
The early 1980's witness a return to an expressive figurative style after a decade when conceptual and minimal trends had been prominent. Alexander had been publishing work by conceptual artists such as Richard Tuttle, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Ed Ruscha and Allen Ruppersberg throughout the 1970's. In the early 1980's however, his publishing slowed somewhat as he began to focus on the painting of the new generation of emerging figurative artists. The gallery, located on 57th Street since 1975, regularly exhibited both paintings and prints during these years. Among the younger artists whose work he did publish in depth at this time are Richard Bosman and Robert Longo.
Alexander has always been fascinated with printmaking's inherent potential for works in series. " Prints created in series can reveal the core of an artist's concerns and intentions You can be very ambitious in projects of that sort and show something that cannot be shown in any other way." The project that most successfully exploited the potency and flexibility of the print series are Donald Judd's three untitled woodcut portfolios of 1988. Judd, a passionate print collector himself, first met Alexander in the late 1970's while looking for a print by Barnett Newman. He had made prints intermittently since the 1960's but nothing as ambitious as these three sets. He began with 18 schematic drawings, nine pairs exploring the negative and positive space of rectangles with horizontal or vertical lines bisecting or trisecting them. The set became increasingly complex, and ultimately, ten prints in which the idea carried through most clearly where chosen. Interested in the spectrum of choices the printing process provides, Judd chose to print these ten woodcuts in black, red and blue editions. In 1990 he added further complexities to his system, layering additional bold colors in stencil onto his woodcut compositions in an untitled series of ten prints.
As a publisher without a workshop, Alexander has had the freedom to work with a wide range of printers and maintain a fresh and varied approach to his projects. (In the early 1980's he thought of opening a workshop and bought a large flatbed offset press, even editioning a few large prints on it before deciding that it was more of a burden than an asset.) He moved the gallery to Soho in 1985, and opened a separate space devoted entirely to prints in 1989. This new space has been used to mount several in-depth exhibitions, which have included rarely shown proofs and working materials, providing the rare opportunity to observe an artist's method in developing a print. In addition, he has produced numerous catalogues on contemporary prints, including the catalogue raisonne of Artschwager's multiples and several with original prints or covers by Red Grooms, Jasper Johns and Robert Motherwell. For 25 years Brooke Alexander Editions has published work of a singular quality and merit as well as contributed to the understanding of contemporary art through its discerning exhibitions and catalogues. Its sustained support for the field of printed art continues to be a significant asset to contemporary art today. (end of text)
(All quoted material
appearing in this text is taken from an interview with Brooke Alexander,