When Anthony Kirk first started at Tyler Graphics in the late 1980s, one of his first projects was helping to print editions of Frank Stella’s La penna di hu. Kirk recalls that, at the time, it was the largest print he had ever worked on and he learned several new concepts and techniques in the process. “Stella’s visits to [Tyler Graphics] to work in the artist’s studio usually ended with heaps of cut up printed sheets on the floor everywhere,” Kirk recalled, “but with brand new collaged maquettes hanging on the studio walls. Armed with only a staple gun and a pair of sharp scissors, Frank would create new images that would keep us busy for months.” Some of these elements even ended up as part of a birthday card that Stella made for Kirk in 1994.
A Lifetime of Printmaking
Anthony Kirk, Master Printer
It is hard to overstate the extent of Anthony Kirk’s knowledge and expertise in the field of printmaking. With more than four decades of experience printing intaglio and relief editions, Kirk has collaborated with leading artists including Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Indiana, Wolf Kahn, Armin Landeck, Joan Mitchell, James Rosenquist, Kiki Smith, Frank Stella, and Donald Sultan. In addition to tenures at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop and Tyler Graphics Ltd., Kirk has shared his skills widely through teaching appointments at Bard College, Boston University, Parsons School of Design, and Pratt Graphics Center, to name just a few.
"This ancient technology still holds currency for the contemporary artist and I have never lost my enthusiasm for sharing my passion for the medium." –Anthony Kirk
Born in Scotland, Kirk received his MFA in Printmaking at the Chelsea School of Art in London. He moved to New York in 1974, where he soon became an apprentice to Robert Blackburn. Celebrated for attracting a diverse and international crowd of artists, Blackburn’s workshop provided Kirk with the opportunity to engage and learn with a vibrant community of artists. In 1988, Kirk was invited by Kenneth Tyler to lead the etching department at Tyler Graphics Ltd., where he developed strong work relationships with Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, and others. Kirk began teaching at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Connecticut in 1995 and, upon the closure of Tyler Graphics in 2000, became the center’s artistic director and Master Printer until 2013. In addition to leading CCP, Kirk launched Anthony Kirk Editions in North Salem, New York, in 2000. Not only does he continue to print, Kirk has also curated shows in the space, such as the critically lauded Five Scottish Print Studios.
For Kirk, a primary draw to printmaking is its endurance as an art form: “When I speak publicly about my life as a master printer,” he says, “I usually start a lecture by removing from my pocket a small copper plate covered with a hard ground wax coating and telling the audience that if Rembrandt, Goya, Piranesi or Dürer were to come alive before me now they would each recognize what I am holding, and then they would ask me for etching needles and acid. This ancient technology still holds currency for the contemporary artist and I have never lost my enthusiasm for sharing my passion for the medium.”
Frank Stella is a key figure in postwar American modernism. Born in 1936 in a suburb of Boston, he attended the Phillips Academy where he was introduced to the work of Josef Albers and Hans Hoffman. In 1958, after graduating from Princeton with a degree in history, he moved to New York and worked as a house painter without intent to become an artist–his interest was solely in creation.
Shortly thereafter, while operating from a rented studio shared with artist Carl Andre, Stella was introduced to and later represented by dealer Leo Castelli. Inspired by the Abstract Expressionist movement, but in a departure from the period, he produced the Black Paintings series. His work emphasized a two-dimensional, flat application of monochromatic paint. At age 25, he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and his work during this time gave way to the Minimalist movement that followed.
In the 1960s, Stella began to work in unique materials such as aluminum and copper paint and he moved away from the traditional square canvas. He experimented with the optical effect of arranging bold colors and geometric forms. Characteristic of the artist is his nonrepresentational painting, no allusion to a narrative or symbolism within the content of his work. In 1970, he became the youngest artist to receive a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Stella’s contributions to modern art are celebrated in the collections of major institutions such as Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others. He lives and works in New York.