MIA’s Print and Drawing Fair reaches its 24th year

The younger audience sighed dreamily while sifting through prints while the older one discussed business and potential sales.

Festival-goers listen to information about the galleries during a guided tour at the Minneapolis Print & Drawing Festival at MIA on Saturday, Oct. 7.

Max Ostenso

Festival-goers listen to information about the galleries during a guided tour at the Minneapolis Print & Drawing Festival at MIA on Saturday, Oct. 7.

by Kate Drakulic

Over a somewhat dreary weekend, the Minneapolis Institute of Art celebrated their 24th Annual Minneapolis Print & Drawing Fair with an abundance of colorful prints for colorful prices. The fair included 13 dealers presenting both old and contemporary prints, a preview party, various pop-up talks and a free photo booth and screen-printing station. 

Upon entrance to the fair, hundreds of prints came into sight. With prices starting at $200 and many exceeding $1,500, prints hung from dealers’ gallery walls and were stacked and spread across tables for the public to browse.

The dealers, who came from New York, New Hampshire, Texas and even Switzerland, stood in their gallery booths answering questions and showing prints. Advertised as a free public event, the fair was rather intimidating for the those unfamiliar with the fine print world.

To mend that gap, Tom Rassieur, Curator of Prints & Drawings at MIA, led a public tour. The group’s size grew by the minute as Rassieur gave introductions to the dealers and publishers.

The first stop of the tour was at the booth for the Tolman Collection, which specializes in contemporary Japanese prints. Bold colored lithographs with delicate gold leaf and fine detail were strewn across the table. The dealer emphasized how the artist used traditional printing methods, like woodblock printing, in a modern context.

Traditional processes seemed to be the theme of the day. Many other dealers highlighted that various print processes were extremely old and even ancient, yet artists continue to master and manipulate them in an effort to create contemporary works. 

Rassieur spoke highly of the dealers, especially of Katherine and Michael Brimberry of Flatbed Press.

“The past couple years I’d been trying to get [Flatbed Press] up here … this year we did, and I’m super excited that we have because they do wonderful, wonderful contemporary work.

“Actually,” Rassieur said as he motioned towards a large black and white print. “That is going to be in our collection as of … February, to get the trustee approval on this work.”

The print was titled “Aplacado (Siete cascos percudidos)” by artist Miguel A. Aragón. The work is heavily influenced by the cartel and law enforcement violence surrounding the drug trade in Mexico.

“He’s interested in the disappearance of people … the kind of disappearance of that human element,” said Katherine Brimberry, Master Printer and Director of Flatbed Press.

Brimberry collaborated with Aragón to create the piece, which at first appears to be made with small dots and smudges, just faintly portraying a portrait of a man.

She described the process and tedious techniques. “We took copper and [Aragón] used a photograph that’s blown up so big you can see the Ben-Day dots. The first step was to drill through the drawing into the copper plate, and after he did the drilling, we polished the plate and applied aquatint, a way to etch gray scale into copper,” Brimberry said. “It’s a very old process.”

The result produced areas of the brightest whites and the deepest blacks. The stark contrast in itself was impressive, and the subject matter added to depth of the piece.

“It’s a very tough subject, but I think very, very beautifully rendered and done in an extremely sensitive way and I think the print is absolutely remarkable,” Rassieur said.

Each and every piece at the fair was incredibly detailed and begged for close attention. With some prints dating back to the 16th century, there was something to be found for every art admirer. 

“We’ve put a lot of effort into this fair and it’s so gratifying when we see people who come out,” Rassieur said.