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June Wayne, founder, at Tamarind in the 1960s, photograph by Helen Miljakovich, courtesy June Wayne

More on the exhilarating Pacific Standard Time art extravaganza in Los Angeles:

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena has assembled its PST exhibit around the intriguing story of printmaking in Los Angeles—Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California. At the epicenter of the story and the exhibit is June Wayne, artist and founder of the legendary printamaking facility, Tamarind. Wayne is the reason lithography was brought back into the lexicon of art and printmaking in the US, and her influence on the trajectory of printmaking in this country is incalculable. In many ways Proof is a loving homage to June Wayne who died just before the show opened. She was 93.

Wayne was an East Coast transplant and primarily a painter when she became interested in lithography. To do the lithographs she envisioned for an artist book of love sonnets by John Donne, she had to travel to Paris to work with master printer Marcel Durassier. There was no one in the United States with the skill set she needed.

Wayne ended up submitting a proposal for funding from the Ford Foundation to cultivate a new “ecology” for lithography in the U.S. McNeil Lowry, head of the Ford Foundation’s Program in Humanities and the Arts at the time, described June and her proposal:

June Wayne is an unusual person. I have never seen…anybody who presented more exhaustively and graphically what she wanted…The Ford grant was a multi million dollar bet on one person alone.

The Tamarind Lithography Workshop—whose evocative and exotic name was simply the street name in Hollywood where Wayne had studio space— opened in 1960 with Wayne as its director. Tamarind quickly became world famous, and artists from all over came to work with Wayne. The list includes Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Conner, Louise Nevelson, Rufino Tamayo. After ten years of hard work, Wayne believed that her goals had been reached. In 1970 she transferred stewardship of Tamarind to the University of New Mexico where it is still in operation today.

Tamarind was the seedbed for a revolution in U.S. art printmaking. A number of Tamarind-trained printers went on to start their own print ateliers, like Ken Tyler of Gemini Ltd and Gemini G.E.L., and Jean Milant of Cirrus. (A fascinating wall-sized chart at the beginning of the exhibit details the relationships and connections of the printmaking world of Southern California during this era. Too complex to capture in its totality, I’m including a small subset here.)

Southern California’s printmaking genealogy

Additional book resources:
Proof, catalog for the show.
Tamarind Touchstones: Fabulous at Fifty.

A few highlights from the exhibit:

Anchovy, by Ed Ruscha (1969)

Untitled, Richard Diebenkorn (1970)

Great Bird, Nathan Oliveira (1957)

Two Figures, William Brice (1966)

Untitled, John Altoon (1965)

Studies in Desperation: Now the Act Is Consummated, Connor Everts (1963)

The Bride, June Wayne (1951)


Crown Point Press, a major force in the Bay Area art scene for 40 years, has produced prints with and for some of the greats including Richard Diebenkorn, John Cage, Richard Tuttle, Wayne Thiebaud and Pat Steir. In addition to a gallery and bookstore in its well appointed space on Hawthorne Street in San Francisco, CPP has a tremendous set of files, brochures and descriptive spec sheets on the artists who have worked with founder Kathan Brown and her team of Master printers.

I spent several hours rifling through the extensive resources and files during which I found a small monograph on Judy Pfaff, one of my favorite artists. It features an in depth interview with Pfaff by Constance Lewallen of CPP.

delfluss (image courtesy of Judy Pfaff)

Here’s a memorable passage from that exchange:

CL: [Your] work is not ironic as so much of the work being shown today, in which the artist is the art critic as well…You once said to me that a positive way of looking at this phenomenon is that now artists have created another arena for themselves–they can be critics, they can be businessmen.

JP: When I am in a generous mood I think that. But often I think it is very depressing that the whole art world seems to demonstrate that attitude now–cool, detached, competent. I think one of the things about being an artist is that you should be allowed to test murky, unclear, unsure territory or all you have left are substitutes that signify these positions. Having it all together is the least interesting thing in art, in being alive.

CL: Someone once wrote that your work deals with art at the fringes of confusion of life itself.

JP: I like that.

delumi (image courtesy of Judy Pfaff)