At the IFPDA Print Fair, the Magic’s in the Details

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Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory may be the most romantic of New York City’s art fair venues. The historic building boasts a cavernous 1880 showroom more akin to a turn-of-the-century train hall than the home of a trade show. After five years stationed at the Javits Center, the International Fine Print Dealer Association’s (IFPDA) Print Fair has returned to the Armory with a packed show, boasting painstakingly intricate works that convey an undeniable commitment to an often underappreciated craft. The fair is on view through Sunday, February 18.

Chandler Simpson, the associate director of Maya Frodeman Gallery, explained the creative process behind the Jackson Hole-based company’s selection of prints by identical twin artist duo Mike and Doug Starn. The large-scale “MTN 621” (2021–22), a depiction of snow-capped peaks, began with a photograph that the Starns digitally manipulated, stripping pixels until it resembled a woodblock print. The artists printed the image on sheets of gelatin-coated pressed paper, which they taped to a plywood frame before applying oil and acrylic paint. The white outer frame that surrounds the work is made from wood, but the duo applied layer after layer of acrylic until the material lost its sharp edges.

“They wanted it to almost look like porcelain,” Simpson said. “They really like the quality of their work — that you can be looking at it and ask, ‘Is it a woodcut? Is it a sculpture? Did it begin as photography?’”

This entrancing ambiguity is on full display at the fair, most notably at the booth of Los Angeles-based workshop Mixografia. Over three generations and more than a half-century, the studio has perfected a three-dimensional printing method that creates utterly unique sculptural wall hangings. The gallery’s director, Shaya Remba, explained the process behind a Louise Bourgeois print titled “Crochet IV,” one of five that the studio created with the artist in 1998. 

At first glance, the print looks like a red string glued to white paper, but that would have been too simple. Bourgeois provided the workshop with twine arranged on plexiglass, an image the studio transformed onto a printing plate.

“That’s where all the magic happens,” Remba said. “That’s where the master printers are at work.” The technicians applied red ink to their new mold, carefully cleaning up the excess so as to preserve the stark white paper that would soon bear the string’s likeness. “The press produces a tremendous amount of pressure,” Remba explained, noting that the machine pushes the paper into the grooves of the printing clip with enough force to transform the sheet into a three-dimensional object.

At the booth of Tandem Press, a Madison, Wisconsin-based shop that also collaborates with artists, Judy Pfaff’s “boba” (2024) offers another inventive variation on the medium. The work comprises 28 intaglio prints featuring manipulated imagery of Indian kantha quilts and is adorned with viscous “bubbles” of glittery resin that mimic the tapioca pearls in the titular Taiwanese boba drink. 

At Zucker Art Books, an image by artist Andrew Fuss bears the literal remnants of a mushroom. The artist left the fungus on a sheet of paper for a few days and allowed it to create spores that left an impression. Valerie Hammond’s series of animals at the booth of Planthouse, a gallery located in Chelsea, continues the nature theme. Midnight-blue paper contrasts with silver ink depictions of forest creatures, which Hammond finalizes by hand painting eyes and tails. The booth also includes a stunning multi-tile ceramic print by artist Richard Dupont, who is featured in the fair’s new five-artist “Spotlight” series.

The wide-ranging exhibition also includes a host of art historical works. A massive 12-piece Titian woodblock titled “The Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea” (c. 1514–15) is on view at the booth of David Tunick Gallery, which also boasts two Edvard Munch lithographs of the artist’s “Madonna” (1895–1902). A glass display case at Ursus Books contains a delightful collection of historic alphabet books — most of which feature unsettling illustrations of animals — and a series of fine art books, including a Futurist edition with a bolted binding.

The fair’s most resonant artworks may be two Keith Haring prints at London’s Shapero Modern Gallery. They’re from the artist’s Apocalypse series (1988), one of the last projects Haring worked on before he died from AIDS-related complications. The editions are filled with the artist’s characteristic scribbled figures; a closer look reveals a number of phallic cartoons. Smith likened the images, so frenetic and at odds with one other in both subject matter and tone, to the work of Hieronymus Bosch, describing them as “almost nightmarish.”

“He’s looking for his place in our history,” said the gallery’s manager Helen Smith, gesturing at the artist’s printed reproduction of Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” (c. 1503). “Where is Haring? And where is his legacy once he passes away?”

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