a modern master lithographer

Judith Solodkin is a Master Lithographer. In 1975, she founded NYC's SOLO Impression, her lithography studio that's housed in the Starrett-Lehigh building in Chelsea. Solodkin works closely with artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Donald Sultan, creating multiples of their images - a creative process that she likens to a cook getting a new recipe.

Lithography is defined as a printing process in which the image to be printed is rendered on a flat surface and treated to retain ink while the non-image areas are treated to repel ink. Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder over 200 years ago as a way to print sheet music quickly and cheaply. Senefelder preferred to call lithography "chemical printing," since the process depends on the chemical interaction of grease, nitric acid, gum arabic and water - rather than the stone from which the name lithography is derived.

In the process of lithography, artists draw on a chemically-treated piece of limestone or a metal plate made of either aluminum or zinc. The artist then uses a greasy drawing ink and creates a reverse image on the plate just as if he or she were drawing on paper. Print paper is placed on top of the inked plate or stone and cranked by hand through a press transferring the image to the paper.

Lithographs differ from etchings, engravings, serigraphs and woodcuts in materials and process. As opposed to many other print processes which depend upon incised or carved lines, lithography is a planographic process that depends upon the mutual repulsion of grease and water.

For example, etchings and engravings are printed from a metal plate with incised lines while a lithograph is made from a chemically treated, flat surface. A serigraph is a silkscreen print, and woodcuts are printed from blocks of wood carved in relief.

Ms. Solodkin was recently interviewed about her trade and craft by the New York Social Diary. Following are excerpts from that online interview:

NYSD: ‘Master Lithographer’ sounds like something from the 19th century or from the era of guilds. Do you think this kind of printing might die away?

JS: Not as long as there are young people who are artists who want to collaborate and work with people who are accomplished in fine art printing. The reason I’m called a Master Printer is that I trained at a place called Tamarind Institute in New Mexico. After two years they actually give you a certificate which says ‘Tamarind Master Lithographer.' It's based on the old guild system.

NYSD: You work not only with letterpress and woodcut but also with embroidery [as in the case of Louise Bourgeois]. How do you take a piece of fabric and make that into a print?

JS: Well we’re not making it into a print exactly. The way I go about making the multiple is very much in line with the way I make a print - layers and runs, sequentially.

NYSD: What for you is creative about the process?

JS: Oh, it’s extremely creative! Think about it. If you have a rubber stamp you can ink about the various areas. Any kind of impression that you make, you can have variations in the way you make that impression. At every stage there are variables. The challenge when you are working with another artist is to present them with the variables that reference their ideas and their work.

NYSD: Can you tell us why you love machinery?

JS: Why do I love machinery? It’s a thing you grow up with. My father liked to tinker. He was a lawyer but he tinkered anyway. So I’d go down to the basement and watch him fix a clock or do some other things. I always loved learning about how things work, knowing the inside of things.

View the Tamarind Institute's current releases here. The following monoprints are from Tanja Softic's Apotropaion series:

:new york social diary


Jen said...

Lithography has always fascinated me, and those who can ply that craft amaze me. Thanks for the reprint!

Jane Flanagan said...

Beautiful. I love all printing processes and am obsessed with the tools and processes of these trades. This post is beautifully composed, as always.

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I also love lithography, and how wonderful to learn about someone who is so devoted to this art. Thanks for this, Diana.


ALL THE BEST said...

Such a great post! What wonderful work!

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

That embroidery on the print is just so cool.