I really don’t like inkjet prints. Sure they are cheap and they photographically recreate an artist’s work but they lack a craftsman’s touch, they have no soul. In the last two months while working in Mexico City and Paris I have had the opportunity to spend time at two of my favorite print shops in the world. 75 Grados in Mexico City and IDEM in Paris. Idem is a lithography print shop that has been printing for 135 years. I visited Idem for the first time over two years ago while I was working on the “The Tall Trees of Paris” book. I stopped by to watch artist Alexone’s litho being made. It was a fantastic experience and I didn’t know if I would get a chance to return in the future. On that day I met Patrice the shop master, who was very cordial and showed me around. Seeing the archive of legendary artists represented on the upper floors was unbelievable. This past June I was lucky enough to accompany artist Andrew Schoultz to Idem while he was working on his print for “Print them all” out of Geneva, Switzerland. A long covered alley leads to the entrance of Idem, and behind a big black steel door, visitors are greeted by a room full of varying sizes of litho stones. A giant paper cutter stands in the corner. Across the threshold and into the main printing room resides an impressive collection of massive to gargantuan printing presses. There is space for artists to draw, proof and sign prints, all under natural light flooding in from skylights. In a method that truly captures the moment, Andrew Schoultz drew one of his prints directly to stone in the shop. The bygone era industrial atmosphere bleeds from every corner and eventually permeates the work being done there. On this trip again I had a chance to chat with Patrice. Like a team of surgeons working to transplant a heart, the team of printers tackle each print and press. I doubt the end result of each print could be replicated elsewhere. The shop has paid its dues and each scar finds its way into the ink on each piece of paper printed. There is a fantastic short film about Idem by director/writer David Lynch that is well worth checking out. Lynch also makes prints at Idem and was in the shop working the day I was there.
Across the world in another neighborhood in Mexico City is 75 Grados print shop. They make silkscreen prints and have been doing it for over 35 years. Being in the middle of working on my next “Tall Trees of” book about Mexico City, I have visited the city a few times this year to gather material and meet artists. I had the opportunity a couple of months ago to visit the shop with artist Raul Urias and to meet shop boss Arturo Negrete. The shop is on a non-descript street in Cuauhtémoc with an exterior featuring murals painted by friends of the shop. Entering the main floor there, I first noticed several people cutting up print negatives. Arturo explained that after each edition is finished the negatives are destroyed to ensure each artist that no further prints will be made of their work. Hanging upon and leaning against the old red brick walls are framed serigraph prints made in the shop over the years. In the back office through an archway some folks worked on computers while a “dia de los muertos” paper mache skeleton sat across the room watching. Arturo showed me a selection of archival prints with colors that were so vibrant, and print quality and registration that were so perfect. The shop smells hazardous in a good way. These inks and chemicals create beauty. The printer’s hand makes them unique. We headed up a steel spiral staircase to the second floor where two different prints were in process. One person examined each print as the other person squeegeed the ink through the screen. Less than perfect ones were set aside and the survivors got a spot on the drying rack. The shop is quite compact, yet produces huge prints. Having originally been interested because they work with quite a few artists who will appear in my next book, I am now looking forward to featuring them in the book as well.