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Original prints by American greats 

This Friday and Saturday, in conjunction with the exhibit The Art of the Print at Rochester Contemporary, master printer Bill Goldston of Universal Limited Art Editions will show and discuss original prints by contemporary artists like Jasper Johns, Elizabeth Murray, Robert Rauschenberg, Lisa Yuskavage, James Rosenquist, and others. The discussion and exhibition are presented by local fine art dealer Deborah Ronnen (Deborah Ronnen Fine Art).

After World War II printmaking was at a standstill. Gone was the energy of the 1930s New York's Art Student League and social justice movement. A few fine-art printmakers, following a European model that paired printers with painters, filled the void.

What followed was a Renaissance of fine-art lithography led by, among others, Tatyana Grosman, a refugee from war-torn Europe. Grosman founded Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) in her home in Long Island in 1957. In the ensuing decades, she and her husband Maurice hired Bill Goldston and collaborated with an impressive roster of artists.

ULAE prints --- which run the gamut from highly experimental to straightforward intaglio --- enjoy an excellent reputation in the art world. Since 1967 the Museum of Modern Art has acquired the first print of every ULAE edition.

City Newspaper called Goldston in his studio for a preview of his visit; an edited transcript of that conversation follows.

City:What can visitors expect when they go to RoCo?

Goldston: Just come with their eyes and their head open and enjoy what they see for what it is. Every person brings a different set of dynamics to the art. Our work is never finished until someone looks at it.

City:You'll have original, unframed prints from Jasper Johns and other major artists. Printing is very tactile; can people touch the prints?

Goldston:They can touch them, yes, of course. I show the actual object to people. I'll also show the images of the studio and Mrs. Grosman and her husband in a PowerPoint presentation. But then we'll look at the prints.

City:What are you bringing?

Goldston: I'll have a new Jasper Johns print with me. I'm also working with Bob Rauschenberg. I was just on the phone with Jim Rosenquist. Jimmy and I are working on something new. I put six colors down on a new piece for him. I might be able to bring it. Lisa Yuskavage is working on something, Kiki Smith, Elizabeth Murray. I'll bring works from 14 to 15 different artists, put them on a large table --- maybe an easel --- and hold them up and I'll discuss them.

City:As a master printer, you work with artists to create original prints. What is the process?

Goldston: An artist works and works, researches, builds an image, and makes it into a print. When an artist releases a print, at that moment he or she says, "This is the best I can do now. My next work may be better, but this is the best I can do now." The prints are numbered and limited. After they are signed they are sent to the Museum of Modern Art or to the Met or to the Tate in London. When they are seen people know they are the best that artist can do.

This is not true of painting and drawings. Paintings and drawings have a way of being snatched away from an artist before he's ready to let it go because the dealer wants to show it or a collector wants to buy it. They will also only be seen in one place --- in a private collection or in one museum. The chance to be seen is much less than an image in printmaking.

City:Only invited artists get to work at ULAE. What do you look for in an artist?

Goldston: I'm going to say something crass.

City:That's OK, our readers can handle it.

Goldston: OK. It's got to hit you right in the gut. Right in the gut. I'm looking at the new issue of ARTnews and the front cover says, "What makes a painting?" Well, I don't think anybody knows what makes a painting. I don't know what makes a print. When I see an artist's work and I speak to that artist, I either respond to it or I appreciate it. It happens like it did with Kiki Smith. I thought, "I'll be crazy not to work with this person."

City:What are you working on now?

Goldston: A fun collaboration between Terry [Winters] and me. He's drawing on [2-mm thick] mylar and I'm transferring the drawings to a lithographic plate. He gives me no instructions. I simply transfer the image to the plate and print it. I can put it where I want in the color that I want. Then I hand the paper back to him and he makes another mylar in response to that. The thing is, we're not supposed to talk. We can't talk about the process. We're supposed to communicate through the print.

City:There's a lot of trust in that method of working.

Goldston: I don't know about trust. It's just reckless!

The Art of the Print is at Rochester Contemporary, 137 East Avenue, April 15 through 24. Master printer Bill Goldston will present prints by ULAE on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, 1 to 5 p.m. both days. Free. Gallery hours: Wednesday through Friday 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. 461-2222, www.rochestercontemporary.org

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