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Craig Kauffman
Prints 1980-1981
April 24-Jun 13, 2023
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Craig Kauffman's initial interest in printmaking emerged while he was attending UCLA. He likely worked with the well-respected John Paul Jones, who established the school's printmaking department. Entrance to the City (1952) displays Kauffman's early fascination with the work of Paul Klee. Despite the elementary appearance of three untitled lithographs from 1953, Kauffman's stick figures holding hands reference sexual identity in the shape of their heads a V for the female and an upward arrow for the male. An untitled lithograph of 1954 with springing tendrils and floral shapes reflects the influence of Henri Matisse.

Kauffman did not return to printmaking until 1971, at the invitation of Jean Milant. Milant, who had founded Cirrus Editions the year before, trained as a master printer with Tamarind Lithography Workshop so named after its street address in Hollywood and founded by June Wayne to revitalize the art of lithography. At Cirrus, Milant was dedicated to working with contemporary artists who lived and worked in Los Angeles. The other print publisher most active at the time, Gemini G.E.L., tended to invite artists based in New York.

In 1980, Kauffman transferred his excitement over his collaged silk paintings to prints. For the paintings, he drew a black ink line around each white paper strip that he cut out and glued to the silk surface. But to emulate the effect in lithography was far more complicated. Milant recalled, "He had to draw that line onto the aluminum plates and make it look like a simulated cut line to make it look like it was pasted on and had the illusion of depth." The rest of the print was created using a brush and washes of color. These prints are close approximations of the paintings made around the same time the interior of a room with a vase of flowers, or a pear on a table, or two faces in profile looking at one another. They are highly abstract, however, and the images are not easily deciphered. Seven vertical format lithographs, editions of 25, were printed in two sizes. The larger size, with a profile on the left, was 42 1/4 by 29 7/8 inches and printed in three states from color to black and white. The smaller size, 33 1/4  by 23 inches, were printed in two states, both in color.

Between 1980 and 1984, Kauffman completed five different lithographs for Cirrus. As his painting became looser and more expressive, he incorporated that into his prints, using larger brushes and more obvious pencil lines. Against a black background, he printed more identifiable imagery such as brightly colored high-heels with a sombrero, or a goldfish in blue and orange. In 1984, Kauffman used the Shaker chairs and stools as imagery for six different lithographs of 30 by 40 inches in an edition of fifty. Two of the images together formed a diptych of stools and chairs standing on pink or yellow carpet against a gray background.

Kauffman saw the act of making prints as an extension of his paintings, not a separate but equal activity, and he did not pursue experimentation. Milant, who worked with him directly, recalled, "He would always be questioning whether he liked it or not but he really did know what he wanted. It was a matter of getting to that place where he would say, 'Okay, that's it.'"

- Hunter Drohojowska-Philp