Reviving an Artform

Tamarind's Indelible Imprint on Lithography

June Wayne. Photo courtesy of Tamarind Institute.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Tamarind Institute to lithography. Founded in 1960 in Los Angeles by June Wayne as Tamarind Lithography Workshop (TLW), it almost single-handedly rescued what was then a dying artform that had been overshadowed by abstract expressionist painting. Wayne raised the profile of the medium by inviting contemporary artists to the workshop including Sam Francis, Louise Nevelson, Josef and Anni Albers, Ed Ruscha and Bruce Conner. A tireless advocate, she built her entire career around raising the reputation of printmaking beyond simply a means of reproduction.

TLW was funded by the Ford Foundation for ten years and Wayne, along with Associate Director Clinton Adams and Technical Director Garo Antreasian, crafted several impressive long-term goals:

    • create a pool of master artisan-printers in the United States by training apprentices

    • develop a group of American artists of diverse styles into masters of this medium

    • habituate each artist and artisan to intimate collaboration so that each becomes responsive and stimulating to the other in the work situation encouraging both to experiment widely and extend the expressive potential of the medium

    • stimulate new markets for the lithograph

    • plan a format to guide the artisan in earning his living outside of subsidy or total dependence on the artist’s pocket

    • restore the prestige of lithography by actually creating a collection of extraordinary prints

    In 1970, Wayne resigned and the last Ford Foundation grant was ending, at which point the program moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and became a division of the College of Fine Arts of the University of New Mexico where it remains to this day. Their dedicated research led to many breakthroughs not only in lithography but printmaking in general, including lightfast inks, precise registration systems, and aluminum plate printing, all of which either originated at or were refined by Tamarind. Other now-customary procedures, such as precisely recording and documenting every edition, and affixing both a workshop chop and a printer's chop to each proof or impression, were also established there.

    Tamarind successfully reached all of their original goals and continues to do so to this day, offering a two-year printing program (the only one of its kind in the world), maintaining a public gallery and a trained team of printers, curators, and experts, and encompassing an extensive archive of historic material and an enormous inventory of over 8000 lithographs produced by the workshop over the decades.