The Honolulu Printmaker’s 89th annual exhibition juror is Amze Emmons, associate professor of printmaking at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. Opening March 1, the show is a chance to see what Emmons considers the best printmaking being done throughout the islands.
This year’s juror has an M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. Outside of teaching, Emmons is an accomplished artist, whose prints and drawings of pastel-hued urban marginalia—like guard shacks, newspaper dispensers, and highway barriers—have hung in solo exhibitions from Boston to San Francisco.
Emmons might be best know for his work as a co-founder and co-contributing editor of the long-running art blog, Printeresting.org. The blog took the printmaking world by surprise last year when it suddenly archived its previous seven years of posts and devoted 2016 to a single, enigmatic theme: GHOST. The project turned the website into a virtual medium for a confluence of mixed-media works by select artists, who produced a barrage of spectral books, comics, workshops, eulogies, shirts, sculptures, and, of course, prints. The end result is now available in book form.
The project was a success, and Emmons and his co-editors are slated to announce the greatly anticipated 2017 theme in the next few weeks. I asked him if he could give us any hints about it, and about his jurying process for the Honolulu Printmakers, via email. He wrote his answers last Friday as he was in the sky en route to Honolulu.
How did you come to be juror for the Honolulu Printmakers Annual Exhibition? Is this a new relationship or are there deeper ties?
In a sense, both. By reputation I’d been aware of the Honolulu Printmakers and this exhibition for a number of years. So I was delighted when [Honolulu Printemakers director] Duncan [Dempster] approached me at SGCI, the national print conference, to introduce himself. I think that was at least two years ago. We’ve had a long-distance correspondence since then.
What are you hoping to see among the exhibition submissions?
The best part of being a juror for an exhibition of this scale and scope is that it will let me see such a broad range of artistic projects. I’m really looking forward to seeing the diversity of ideas and ways of making that will be present.
As a teacher and printmaker, would you say that you notice regional styles in printmaking? Do you expect to see new trends in the works here that you wouldn’t see in your area, and what might influence those?
Interesting question. I would say there is and should always be a regional exchange of ideas. This aesthetic exchange is in a sense an indicator of the strength of a community. The flipside is that, thanks to all of the new ways we communicate, it’s possible for artists to be informed by a global art world. It’s the tension between the local and the global that makes for a great art scene.
I’ve heard that Honolulu Printmakers is now allowing digital prints. Is that familiar terrain for you or something new to assess?
This conversation about which new technologies will be allowed to fit under the umbrella of the fine art print is a debate that has gone on as long as artists have made prints. Printmaking, like many fine arts disciplines, derives its tools from commercial industry—this was true with etching in the 1500s, lithography in the 1700s, and screen-printing in the late 20th century. Digital technology has introduced a host of new tools that have potential, and, like any tool, it will be dependent on the artist to make something exciting with it, which many are doing. I’ve seen artists hack desktop printers to print using potatoes, and looms that can digitally replicate drawings. I saw a traditional etching with an embedded computer virus. And there is an artist in Philadelphia working with a scientist to produce bioluminescence using conductive screen ink and compost. The idea that a humble wood cut and work that I like can fit in the same creative community is breathtaking. It’s an exciting world.
Can you talk a bit about the kind of work you personally produce?
I make prints, drawings, and paintings, and occasionally sculpture. In broad terms this work is investigating the relationship between architecture and community.
And I also regularly collaborate on interactive installations, produce events and exhibitions… these are maybe more loosely organized around ideas of creating temporary aesthetic communities or mini-utopias.
How would you introduce printeresting.org to a newcomer? And the GHOST concept?
Printeresting was an award-winning art blog, looking to analyze the role of print in contemporary culture, drawing new connections between art, design, and current events. We aimed to reframe the discourse surrounding the fine art print by clarifying the many ways in which print is central to contemporary art. Our approach was informed but irreverent, humorous but sincere.
The blog was authored by multiple contributors, who wrote about artwork, artist profiles, studio visits, reviews, coverage of conferences and art fairs, and more. Over the years our collaboration expanded offline, and we organized numerous exhibitions and curated other events and productions. In 2014 we stopped blogging to focus on producing real world projects that involved longer-form writing, and more curatorial projects and publications. GHOST was the first of these. It was a delightfully complicated project that I will discuss in detail in my lecture on Feb. 26.
Any hints about what the next theme will be? Or any ways the concept is evolving?
Two-word hint: Samizdat + copying
What are you looking forward to the most during your visit to Honolulu?
Seeing some great artwork, meeting the folks at the Honolulu Printmakers, and enjoying as much of the beauty and culture of Hawai‘i as I can while I’m here.
Artist talk: Amze Emmons
Sunday, Feb. 26 • 4pm • Honolulu Museum of Art School • Free
Juror Amze Emmons talks about his work and his jurying process.
Sunday, March 12 • 4:30pm • Honolulu Museum of Art School • Free
Members of Honolulu Printmakers share thoughts on the future of printmaking in light of new technology.
Find out more at honoluluprintmakers.org.