Graphicstudio: America’s cutting-edge printing workshop

Ahead of the sale of 37 multiples created by artists working in collaboration with the printing workshop Graphicstudio, Christie's visits the innovative Florida atelier

Robert Mapplethorpe, Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, Kenny Scharf, Leonora Carrington, Alex Katz, Jim Dine. The list of artists who have collaborated with Graphicstudio — a print workshop on the campus of the University of South Florida in the city of Tampa — goes on and on. Over the last five decades, more than 100 artists have passed through its doors. 

‘Graphicstudio is a byword for innovative fine art editions,’ says Christie’s Prints and Multiples Head of Sale Lindsay Griffith. ‘The workshop has collaborated with some of the most important artists across the world to explore new methods, inventing several of its own printing techniques in the process. It continues to work with upcoming names.’ 

Jim Dine with tools he used for dry-point etching while working at USF Graphicstudio, circa 1983. Photo courtesy of USF Graphicstudio, © 1983. All Rights Reserved. Credit Will Lytch

Jim Dine with tools he used for dry-point etching while working at USF Graphicstudio, circa 1983. Photo courtesy of USF Graphicstudio, © 1983. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Will Lytch

This October Christie’s will hold the sale Graphicstudio Online, a dedicated online auction of editions from the studio’s own archive. With estimates ranging between $500 and $10,000, all sales will benefit Graphicstudio’s technical research, artist residences and education programmes. 

Artist Leonora Carrington and printer Mark Callen discuss the development of Carrington’s The Memory Tower at USF Graphicstudio, May 1995. Photo courtesy of USF Graphicstudio, © 1995. All Rights Reserved. Credit Will Lytch

Artist Leonora Carrington and printer Mark Callen discuss the development of Carrington’s The Memory Tower at USF Graphicstudio, May 1995. Photo courtesy of USF Graphicstudio, © 1995. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Will Lytch

Graphicstudio was established in 1968 by Dr Donald J Saff, a professor in the university’s visual arts department. With experimentation at its core, the studio developed original printing techniques — including a new method of encaustic wax printing designed for Roy Lichtenstein. It also worked with Chuck Close and Vik Muniz on a unique ‘photogravure’ process which allowed larger sizes and more colours to be printed.

Later, under the directorship of Hank Hine, then Margaret Miller, artists including Guillermo Kuitca, Christian Marclay and Arturo Herrera were invited to the studio to experiment with traditional printing processes. Some explored the 19th-century photosensitive ‘blueprint’ technique — so called because of its final Prussian blue colour; others experimented with intaglio, lithography and silkscreen.

Graphicstudio’s current lithograph printing set-up. 

Graphicstudio’s current lithograph printing set-up. 

‘Graphicstudio would go all out, I mean they would go all out in almost any kind of experiment, do anything that the artist wanted to do,’ James Rosenquist once said of his time spent at the workshop. ‘It’s totally experimental there. Anything you can think of, they’ll try to do. At Graphicstudio the weather was hot and so were the prints and everybody there.’

According to Graphicstudio Master Printer Tom Pruitt, the reputation of the studio is indeed ‘definitely something that an artist is drawn to when coming here.’ 

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Study for Chinese Summerhall (small). Each sheet 24 x 20 in (610 x 508 mm). Estimate $30,000-50,000. Offered in 
Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), Study for Chinese Summerhall (small). Each sheet: 24 x 20 in (610 x 508 mm). Estimate: $30,000-50,000. Offered in Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

Saff’s legacy of inviting artists to Tampa to stretch the limits of their practice extended beyond two-dimensional prints. Series of works were fabricated from steel, wax, wood, bronze, resin and basalt for artists including Louise Bourgeois, Georg Baselitz and Kiki Smith. Limited-edition artists’ books were also released by the workshop. 

‘When an artist comes here and you’re working with them, everybody gets pushed out of their comfort zone just a little bit. I think that's really where things can start to happen,’ adds Pruitt.

Sign up today

Christie's Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week

Subscribe
James Rosenquist (1933-2017), The Prickly Dark. Sheet 66¼ x 66¾ in (1683 x 1696 mm). Estimate $5,000-7,000. Offered in 
Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

James Rosenquist (1933-2017), The Prickly Dark. Sheet: 66¼ x 66¾ in (1683 x 1696 mm). Estimate: $5,000-7,000. Offered in Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

‘It's about learning the artists' processes and giving them an opportunity to do something exceptional,’ Graphicstudio’s current director Margaret Miller explains. ‘To explore new directions in their practice, to break the traditions of printmaking,’ she adds.

In 1990, The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC established an archive of Graphicstudio’s editions. The following year, they mounted a major exhibition of their new holdings.

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), Beasts. Sheet 16¾ x 19⅞ in (426 x 505 mm). Estimate $5,000-7,000. Offered in 
Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011), Beasts. Sheet: 16¾ x 19⅞ in (426 x 505 mm). Estimate: $5,000-7,000. Offered in Graphicstudio Online, 17-24 October 2019, Online

To date, Graphicstudio has produced over 1,000 limited-edition works. Prints produced by artists in their workshop can be found in MoMA, the Whitney, the New York Public Library and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Graphicstudio Online runs between 17-24 October 2019.