The School of Art’s printmaking facilities have moved into a grand new location: the old Black Box Theater has been re-purposed into a state-of-the art printmaking studio.
The new and improved printmaking facility moved from the basement of Foster Hall to Hatcher Hall on LSU campus. The studio is larger and equipped for various printing techniques, and features a darkroom and an etching and general work room. In the new studio, student and faculty members are able to work comprehensively, and if desired, on a large scale in all the modern print-related methods.
“While a small handful of universities may have large presses, we’re perhaps the only university to be able to work comprehensively on a large scale in all the print related methods, including relief, intaglio, lithography, screen printing, monotype, digital printmaking, and papermaking,” said art/printmaking professor Leslie Koptcho.
One of the main benefits of moving the printmaking space is that it is now conveniently closer to the rest of the studio arts complex; graduate studios and a digital lab are located upstairs. Moving to a new and clean space was desirable and a huge improvement, she said.
“Hatcher’s high ceilings give students a much more pleasant experience,” Koptcho said. “I feel a new enthusiasm coming from the students, especially in the students taking courses for the first time. They seem to really being enjoying it, and we’re currently adding new specializations.”
The printmaking space needs have grown considerably over the years, as the technology has improved. The old space was divided up into many small spaces, much like a sprawling labyrinth. The move into the new space offered an opportunity to position the equipment in a more efficient and logical flow.
Assistant professor of art Leslie Friedman, who specializes in screen printing, joined the School of Art in 2016. The new space now includes a special area designated just for screen printing, as well as a new beautiful wash-out booth. “In the new space, we are now able to take full advantage of our large format presses,” Friedman agreed.
“For example, one could create an image via traditional hand techniques, or digital means, print the image in any one of the above methods, including the option of making an impression on a hand formed, unique sheet of paper,” Koptcho explained. “They can also realize their creative project as a book, printing and binding it as a work of art.”
Over the years, the studio arts curriculum has evolved to include classes in the areas of printmaking & book arts, papermaking, and digital printmaking, and the vision of the program has expanded significantly, she observed.
The printmaking studio allows for art students to experiment with different materials. “Students have been really crazy about creating paper from local plants and materials,” Koptcho said. “Just this past semester, we made paper from, raw cotton, black willow, and Turk’s Cap Mallow, a hibiscus-related plant.”
“It’s the visual and conceptual nature of the process that is the most exciting draw—the essence of a print aesthetic at work,” she said. “Artists create print-based installations and unique works that challenge and question technology and ethics, the multiple and serial image, authenticity, identity, reproduction, and utilize the print as a visual platform to promote a social agenda. Individuals tend to gravitate toward the medium because of the inherent, and quite beautiful, physical attributes of the print.”
Koptcho hopes that the new printmaking studio will inspire many future artists. Many distinguished alumni have specialized in printmaking over the years, she noted. Louisiana, and in particular LSU, has propelled the careers and businesses of many individuals, including for example: Carmon Colangelo (MFA 1983) is currently the Dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in Saint Louis; (Carmon was the recipient of the LSU College of Art & Design distinguished alumni award in 2014), and Kathryn Hunter, (MFA 2003) is the successful owner-operator of Blackbird Press, and employs a number of emerging printmakers and book artists in Louisiana.
The printmaking curriculum at LSU is a hidden gem that deserves recognition in the community. “I don’t think the general Louisiana citizen realizes what a treasure they have in LSU’s printmaking & book arts program, and what a rich history of printmaking there is in our state,” Koptcho observed. “We’re far better known nationally for our accomplishments than right here at home.”