Still dwelling on the Sydney Paths to Abstraction catalog, which I find surprisingly inspiring. Surprising because many of the works have never been among my favorites. But there are two great merits to this show and catalog – the prominent places given to Klee and to printmaking, especially woodcuts. As I discussed before on this blog, the woodcut seems to have been a major facilitator of abstraction, because of its particular

Wassily Kandinsky, pages from Klange, 1912

Wassily Kandinsky, pages from Klange, 1912

kind of registration and mis-registration, and because images often verge on the unintelligible. It’s not easy to render in relief printing, and though professionals can master it, as witness the great mass culture wood engravings of the late nineteenth century, in this particular area artists were able to put confusion and inexperience

Paul Gauguin, Auti te Pape (artist's proof) 1893-94

Paul Gauguin, Auti te Pape (artist’s proof) 1893-94

to good use. The standard way to proceed was probably to glue a drawing to the block, then cut into the wood through the negative areas, taking care to preserve the lines. If I was to do it – and hope to in the not far off future – I would forgo the drawing and just cut directly into the wood. What pleasurable difficulties would arise then!

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