Book Review: Post-Digital Printmaking
Post-Digital Printmaking: CNC, Traditional and Hybrid Techniques by Paul Catanese and Angela Geary is a new release published by A&C Black. Printeresting was provided with a complimentary review copy.
As a practicing artist, I’m not specifically interested in using a CNC router to make my own work but as a print enthusiast, I’m interested in the way technology affects print media. When I read any book about technology (print-related or otherwise), I’m not concerned with how so much as why. Post-Digital Printmaking: CNC, Traditional and Hybrid Techniques by Paul Catanese and Angela Geary covers aspects of both.
The title of this book, Post-Digital Printmaking, sounds pretty exciting. The first chapter does an solid job of fleshing out what the authors mean by “post-digital”. Basically, it refers to the expanded field of analog printmaking and all manner of related computer-augmentation. It’s a broad view that focuses on integrating old and new approaches rather than focusing on just one or the other. Catanese and Geary are clear that we’re living in an age where digital tools are just a given- the debate is over (mostly). In case you’re wondering, post-digital printmaking is distinct from digital printmaking like inkjet and other hands-off technologies in that it helps generate matrices which can be manipulated in any number of physical ways. I’m inclined to think post-digital printmaking, as the authors define it, is basically just printmaking, an inherently diverse and expansive discipline. But by using word post-digital as a descriptor, the authors set their book apart from a sea of books that focus on a more traditional view of printmaking. It’s an important distinction.
The second chapter is given to a history of the computer as an artist’s tool. This part of the book is brief but informative. The authors start in the fifties with Ben F. Laposky and his investigation into electronic wave forms and move on to other digital pioneers relevant to contemporary print artists. It’s a reminder that print artists are often researchers working with new materials and technologies; printed matter is sometimes a by-product of these investigations but not necessarily the goal. The real goal is a pursuit of knowledge.
After a glossary of other print-augmenting digital equipment (laser-cutters, 3D printers, etc.) the book ultimately settles in on the authors’ passion: CNC hybrid processes. Computer numerical control has been around for a long time but in recent years, it has secured its role in the artist’s studio. Though a niche within a niche, it offers infinite iterations. There is a somewhat-techy chapter dedicated to preparing imagery for use with a CNC router followed by the second half of the book- ten chapters showcase the possibilities by focusing on individual artists (like Mike Lyon and Jon Pengelly) and groups (like Ribuoli Digital and Stephen Hoskins and the Centre for Fine Print Research). This is perhaps the richest part of the book giving a view behind-the-scenes in the making of work. Examples by Terry Winters and Chuck Close add prerequisite bluechip weight but there’s also a lot of non-bluechip figures who bring a real world street cred to the book: Alex Dodge, Barbara Foster, Oscar Gillespie, Artemio Rodriguez, Ashley John Pigford and Tricia Treacy (of the Vista Sans Wood Type Project), to name just a few.
Really, a CNC router isn’t unlike a burin. It’s another tool. It’s an interesting one but, hopefully, less interesting than the thing that’s made with it.
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