Monday, March 14, 2011

Fine Art Prints, Part 3

In 1986, Edward Gorey created a suite of collagraph prints entitled Elefantomas (hmm, sound familiar? Like Fantomas perhaps?). Housed in a cloth covered portfolio with ties, the set consists of 9 prints, plus a signed colophon page. Published in an edition of 26 lettered and 10 Roman numeral sets, Elefantomas is a quite scarce Gorey collectible. The images below show one of the lettered sets, and the photographs were sent to me by a collector.

The two editions are actually quite different from one another. For the 26 lettered copies, each print is signed and lettered individually to match the colophon page. The 10 Roman numeral sets consist of "ghost images" of each of the prints. These "ghosts" were achieved by laying a second sheet of paper on the printing plate once a print was pulled without re-inking the plate. The resulting prints are lighter and less well defined than the lettered edition. For the ten Roman numeral sets, only the colophon page is signed and numbered. The individual prints are not marked.

The art shows a figure with an elephantine head striking many different poses, and performing circus-style acrobatics. It has been remarked that this is Edward Gorey's most erotic artwork. Because the printing process reverses images, the lettering on the title print appears backwards.


Philip said...

I have always been intrigued by the "ghost" monoprints of this series. In calling them “monoprints” did he originally intend to somehow alter each image individually after they were struck (which he never got around to, hence their lack of signatures)? Or was the process of “ghost” printing sufficient to make each of them different? When the Gotham announced that the monoprints were finally for sale (sometime after Mr Gorey's death), they also noted that three proof sets had also been pulled, one of which now appears to be for sale by the Edward Gorey House.

ampootozote said...

This set of prints is most vexing to define. This is because Edward Gorey did not always adhere to strict print making conventions.

Fine art print vocabulary often gets confusing. To be a true monoprint, only one example of the print is created, using a printing process as the main artistic technique. The print can be made from any process - silkscreen, woodblock, etching, lithography, etc. The print is often manipulated by hand, and may contain other elements (such as drawing, hand coloring, collage etc.), but the main technique used is a printmaking process.

The Elephantamos "ghost prints" are not really monoprints because they were produced in multiples. I don't know whether there was an intent to add to and individualize the prints, but it didn't happen. Each print has slight differences from the others, but they are, in fact, an intentionally made, imperfectly printed second edition of the lettered copies. Creating an edition of 10 sets prevents these from being true monoprints.

Artist's proofs are the very first impressions of an image, which are done to check and double check that the image is being created to the express intention of the artist. The artist approves the image and printing quality, and then the edition is printed. Some changes may be made between individual A/P prints, such as adjusting the color of ink, or the pressure of the press to create a better print. A/P prints should be the finest and most detailed pulls from the plates since printing plates will deteriorate with use.