Barbara Madsen, an American artist, visited us for 4 weeks in July and August 2017. Our purpose for her visit was to make photogravures. She photographed objects brought to the studio by everyone and objects that she found in the studio, which initially seemed arbitrary to those in the studio; these objects became the subject matter for her photogravures. However, as the ensemble of objects came together it became more clear the thinking behind her choices. She is motivated by the human connection to industrial matter. Barbara has made many gravures in her career. Thus her presence at the studio was very valuable to Zhané Warren, for both their passion for the technique caused ‘geek’ discussions and debates. Whilst, experimentations, tests, more tests, proofing, modifying ink, proofing with different inks, back to photoshop, printing more positives, sensitising more gelatin tissue, etching more plates, proofing until that ‘right’ print is pulled.
Photogravure is both an intaglio and photomechanical technique. The technique combines the details of photography with the dense pigmented inks of intaglio. The use of pigmented inks and acid free pulp paper makes photogravure the most archival print technique. For photogravure, a continuous tone positive is exposed to light-sensitive pigmented gelatin tissue, which afterwards is bonded to a rosin coated copperplate. An aquatint is key to this tone-based technique. After the gelatin is developed the copperplate, with the image containing gelatin, is etched in baths of ferric chloride of different strengths. The etching commences with the extreme darks, moving through the tones to the lightest tone – pulling the etched copperplate from the ferric chloride once the bite reaches the extreme highlights. Thereby the technique accomplishes a full range of tones and attests for a high quality fine art print.
Madsen is an artist and Associate Professor at Mason Gross School of the Arts. Madsen is known for her work in photography, print, sculpture, and installation. Her vast collections of industrial matter (spark plugs, machine parts, welding masks, light switches, rubber, plastic, prosthetics, artificial eyes, and much more) serve as the stimulus for the work. Her art employs the tropes of modernism, popular culture and objects, sited in meta-spaces. Madsen’s installations mine the reproduction of the object, they are realised through photographic prints, flattening and printing them on wallpaper and floor vinyl covering every surface of the gallery. Her encapsulated installations are spaces where nine feet tall fits and misfits can coexist. She has created installations at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, 2006; the University of Delaware, 2005; and Drake University, 1999. She designed the set for Leopold and Loeb, a play at the Lowry Lab Theatre in Minneapolis in 2012. Post September 11th, Madsen was compelled to make billboards. Her anti-bigotry billboard, Eye 4 Eye = Blind, was raised above buildings in Jersey City and Revenge Never Ends was pasted behind NJPAC in Newark.
In 2004 she was awarded a Puffin Foundation Fellowship for the next three banners in Washington D.C.. Madsen’s banner of the smiley face with its mouth wide open, like Edvard Munch’s scream and gas mask, was hoisted over the façade of the Corcoran Museum of Art at 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue, across the lawn from the White House. She has had solo exhibitions at ULUS Gallery in Belgrade, Serbia in 2014; Millersville University, Pennsylvania, 2011; Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia; St. Lawrence University, New York; Miami University, Ohio; Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic, and Edinburgh Print Gallery, Scotland. Her selected group exhibitions include the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, The New York Public Library, and the International Print Center in New York. International solo shows include Italy, Scotland, the Czech Republic, and Serbia; her work was selected for group exhibitions in Japan, China, Belgium, France, Spain, Serbia, Germany, Poland, India, and the United Arab Emirates. Madsen’s works are in the collections of The New York Public Library; the Library of Congress; Dartmouth College; University of Sharijah, United Arab Emirates; Guanlan Art Center in Shenzhen, China; and the Amoco Corporation.