Touring the Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration exhibit at the Corcoran with teachers from 2 schools, an interesting conversation ensued: Could the prints really be considered Close’s work, when someone else–the printmaker–does the ‘work’ of executing the ideas? How much of the printmaker’s hand and mind goes into the work, and how does that affect the final product? The title of the exhibit is “Process and Collaboration,” but the printmaker receives only a byline on a wall panel.
This brings to mind Sol Lewitt, Lewitt, a conceptual artist who conceived of the idea of wall drawings in the late 60’s.The wall drawings are meant to be executed by other artists as in the above example from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C..Wall Drawing #65. Lines not short, not straight, crossing and touching, drawn at random, using four colors, uniformly dispersed with maximum density, covering the entire surface of the wall.
At the time, and also today, there are many people who debate the validity of this work.
A similar discussion has emerged at school. Children are making prints to put with their photographs in the entryway of the school. I made the suggestion that some of the prints be cut and used for collage. This would mean that not every child would be using the print that he or she made–the pieces would become collective. When the final work is executed–would that then be the child’s work? The teachers felt strongly that it would not, and instead set out to have each child make something of their own.
You can guess where I stand on this debate. The concept, the idea, the intention of the work is as important as the hand(s) in executing it. The presence of others in a work does not detract from the final product, or make it less ‘your own,’ but lends a spirit of community that strengthens the individual.