Color clamors for attention, draws us in or repels us. Each color is a reflection of a place on the visible light spectrum. In printmaking, the tradition of black and white dominated for centuries. On occasion color (often watercolor) was added by hand after printing. In the 20th century, the use of color inks in prints increased at an extraordinary pace.
Between 1968 and 2006 Lynwood Kreneck, now professor emeritus at Texas Tech University School of Art, organized and curated a series of eighteen exhibitions called ColorPrint USA. The exhibitions featured arrays of contemporary American printmaking, quite literally from every state in the Union (and occasionally prints from artists in other countries). The title of the exhibition series suggests one of its main purposes, specifically to feature the increasing importance of the use of color by printmakers.
In 1998 Kreneck organized an exhibition, Spanning the States in ’98, that featured one work by a printmaker from each of the fifty States. This rather daunting effort included cross-country car trips to meet artists and co-ordination (with the help of Eleanor Kreneck) of complex paperwork, shipping, and catalog arrangements that accompanied this ambition. Perhaps even more amazing, each participating artist received a set of all fifty prints to exhibit at a local venue in her or his State. On one weekend in November of 1998 all fifty exhibitions opened at the same time, give or take a few hours.
The works featured in a recent exhibition (September 2016-March 2017) at the Museum of Texas Tech University included a selection of prints from the the 1998 exhibition, Spanning the States, highlighting the abundance and absence of color. In this selection of works, the use of color ranges from the simple monochromatic (Brian Paulsen, Siri Beckman), to the subtle (Clare Romano/John Ross, Gary Kaulitz), to the intense (Jack McCaslin, Karen Kunc), and other degrees in between.