In the 1960s, Los Angeles was home to a printmaking boom. Gemini G.E.L., a fine-art workshop on Melrose Avenue, started collaborating with prominent artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Claes Oldenburg, creating innovative prints that helped launch a renaissance of the graphic arts.
Gemini made sure their prints weren’t considered copies. Artists, primarily from the East Coast, arrived at the workshop by invitation only. Editions were limited, and Gemini sold only original works that were signed and numbered by artists.
The workshop celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, and the National Gallery of Art commemorates the event with a new exhibition of 17 serial projects by 17 different artists displayed in their entirety. Dubbed “The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L,” the show mingles pieces from the last five decades, including works from 1994 by John Baldessari and pieces from 1969 by Jasper Johns.
During a press preview on Wednesday morning, associate curator Adam Greenhalgh said the exhibition celebrates Gemini as being at the forefront of printmaking’s technical innovations. “They pushed the boundaries of what printmaking could be,” he said.
In 1981, the National Gallery established a permanent archive for Gemini works, featuring one proof from each of the more than 2,300 editions created there, plus print records, drawings, blocks, and plates. Though the archive’s best-known piece is arguably Booster by Rauschenberg, the 72-inch-tall self-portrait isn’t part of the current exhibition. (The Gallery is saving it for a major exhibition next summer.)
You won’t miss it, though. Displayed side-by-side, Richard Serra’s nine black-and-white etchings–big, ink-blot-looking shapes–resemble explosive black holes. And Julie Mehretu’s four panels, also in black-and-white, reveal a sinister narrative of a pulsing, living form. Works by Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist, and others round out the show.
“The Serial Impulse at Gemini G.E.L.” opens at the National Gallery of Art on October 4 and will remain open until February 7.