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Thursday, May 30 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(Book and Paper) The Materials, Techniques, and Conservation Challenges of Richard Serra's Oil Stick Prints

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The Gemini G.E.L. (Graphic Editions Limited) Archives at The National Gallery of Art, established in 1981, holds an example from each of Gemini’s published editions. The Archives includes rare proofs, documentation notes, working materials, and photographs published by the Los Angeles, California workshop. Of the more than 1700 works in the Archives, twenty-one are screenprints made with oil stick by Richard Serra (b.1939) between 1985 and 1991.

Richard Serra’s large-scale prints, with their densely layered, rich textural surfaces expand the boundaries of traditional screenprinting techniques. Each of the images begin with a traditional screenprint in black ink. Subsequent layers incorporate oil stick, the generic name for a medium (often called Paintstik, the Shiva brand of Jack Richeson & Co.) composed of pigment, linseed oil and melted wax, and molded into large sticks.

The printers at Gemini, working with Serra, manipulate the medium by heating the oil sticks, adding additional linseed oil and casting the mixture into large bricks. Multiple layers of oil stick are pushed through a screen onto the original keyprint. The screenprints are created on a variety of papers--Japanese and western, machine and handmade.

Due to their large format and experimental technique, these works are often difficult to store, handle, and display. The prints exhibit a variety of condition problems, including non-drying, soft, tacky ‘inks’ and textured surfaces that attract lint and dust. The surfaces are vulnerable to abrasions and deformations, especially during handling. Some prints have white, hazy deposits that develop when free fatty acids migrate out of the oil paint and deposit on the upper layers of the image. The white efflorescence disfigures the prints’ velvety black surface.

This research includes a survey and visual examination of Serra’s oil stick screenprints and drawings from Gemini G.E.L., private collections, and museums. The condition of the works and storage methods were examined in an attempt to understand the relationship between the storage conditions and the formation of efflorescence. Scientific analysis, including gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy (GC-MS), was performed on samples of oil stick to characterize the media and identify efflorescence. The information gained from this research will inform the preservation and conservation needs of these works, and to develop protocols for optimum storage and treatment.


Im Nay Chan

Paper Conservation Fellow, National Gallery of Art
Graduate of the conservation program at Buffalo State College. MA/CAS Art Conservation. Held positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Conservation Center of Art and Historic Artifacts, The Morgan Library and Museum, and the National Gallery of Art.

Thursday May 30, 2013 5:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom E 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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