Sunday, March 28, 2021

What's a print? What's a reproduction?

The most misused word in the world of art is the word "print," as used in defining work as "limited edition print," etc.

In the narrow, but true art definition of what an original art print is, a print is a work of art produced from an image worked by the artist on another material, usually a metal, plexiglass, wood, linoleum, plastic plate, etc.

Everything else is a reproduction.

And lawsuits will happen if suddenly a collector discovers that their "print" or "original" is in fact a reproduction.

So if an artist paints or draws an image on any medium, and then has multiple images made from that original by an electro-mechanical or mechanical process using photographic or digital images (such as Iris or Gyclee), those images are reproductions - not prints.

However, because it would really be hard to market an artist's work as "limited edition, signed and numbered reproductions," the word "print" has been kidnapped by the marketers of art to apply to any set of multiple images - regardless of how they came to be, or what part the artist played in its creation.

It gets a bit murky when it comes to digital art - that is artwork that is created from scratch through the use of a computer or a photograph taken with a digital camera.

Once the file is done and finished and saved, then one can say that the image that comes out of the printer is the "print" in the true sense of the narrow art definition - much like the negative in traditional photography produces the photographic print.

However, a photograph that is taken, developed, printed in the darkroom and then scanned so that Giclees or Iris "prints" can be made from the photographic image means that those are reproductions made from the original photograph. 

But a photograph taken with a digital camera and then has Iris/Giclees or any other digital prints made from the digital image in the memory card is a "real" print!

So a digital medium like Giclee/Iris can be either a reproduction or a real print - it all depends on what the original source of the image is!

Printmakers are especially sensitive to the misuse of the work "print" to market reproductions of artwork. One of the best places in town to buy true prints from very talented printmakers is the Washington Printmakers Gallery in the Dupont Circle area.