Hand-bound letterpress limited editions of poetry and other pursuits of David Sellers
David Sellers extends his interest in book and graphic arts by assembling and organizing related works of art on paper and objects, allowing comparisons and the possibility of publications and exhibitions. Inquiries are welcomed.
José Guadalupe Posada
Broadside prints and chapbooks
Original early 20th century (c.1900-1919) broadsides with wood-engraved and metal cut illustrations by the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) and his contemporaries, including Manuel Manilla (c.1830-1890). Posada is widely regarded as the father of 20th century Mexican printmaking. His subjects range from people and events related to the Mexican Revolution of 1912, iconic skeleton images (“Calaveras”) associated in popular culture with the Day of the Dead, crimes, sensational events, natural disasters and devotional images. His prints influenced the artwork of Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, as well as the artists of the Mexican print collective Taller Grafica Popular, and inspired album cover art for the Grateful Dead. His Katrina broadside has become the iconic image of the Day of the Dead. Because Posada’s broadsides were sold in the popular “penny press,” they were not in their time thought to be important or valuable enough to preserve.
José Guadalupe Posada and the Mexican Penny Press, an exhibition curated by Diane Miliotes for the Trout Gallery, Dickinson College, draws upon a larger collection of prints and chapbooks assembled by David Sellers. The original exhibit took place from October 28, 2016 - February 18, 2017. The touring schedule for 2017-2018 includes: San José State University, Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery, San José, CA, Oct. 10–Dec. 15, 2017; Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA: April 19–Aug. 5, 2018; and Carnegie Arts Center, Turlock, CA: September 15, 2018–December 30, 2018.
A color catalogue of the complete collection, with a scholarly essay by Posada authority Diane Miliotes, distributed by The University of Washington Press for Dickinson College, is expected to be available April 2018.
Comprising selected prints by Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), including his monumental prints. Baskin’s printed images are among the most powerful images created in any print medium during the 20th century. The collection includes the monumental The Hydrogen Man (1954), The Hanged Man (1955), Angel of Death (1959), and The Great Birdman (1963), rarely seen together. Also included are chiaroscuro woodcuts of Thomas Eakins (1965) and Icarus (1967), and a rare (edition of 5) 1951 self-portrait. His work is included in the collections of major art museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery. During his lifetime he received numerous awards. In addition to paintings, sculpture and prints, Baskin’s Gehenna press produced some of the finest examples of letterpress printing and hand-bookmaking in the 20th century.
"Angel of Death" (1959).
Woodcuts and lithographs
Comprising a selection of prints by the celebrated New Jersey artist and teacher Jacob Landau (1917-2001). The collection includes woodcuts that were not published and are thus rarely seen, including Modern Prometheus (1951); and Dimitri Mitroploulos (1959), as well as his editioned Rachmaninoff (1958), Happening (1963), Horses and Men (1966), and I, John Brown (1968). Images among Landau’s later work in lithography include Ritual Happening (1964), Palace (1965), and The Ninth Circle (from the Dante Suite, 1975), prints done in collaboration with master printers at the famed Tamarind Lithography workshop. Landau’s work has been recognized by many awards and honors, and is included in collections of major museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery, Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others. The most recent comprehensive exhibition of Landau’s prints was at the New Jersey State Museum in 1981. Note: Landau and Leonard Baskin were contemporaries whose lives intersected for a time while living and studying in Paris in the early 1950s, and their early woodcuts from this period (arguably) reflect cross-influences. An exhibit of printed work by both artists is a possibility. Note: In the late 1990s, in a collaboration with the artist, David Sellers and his son Jonathan printed a small number of proofs using Jacob Landau's original woodblocks.
"Rachmaninoff" (woodcut, 1958).
"Charades III" or "Bury the Dead" (lithograph, 1965).
Japanese paper stencils
Comprising 19th and early 20th century hand-made paper stencils used to print patterns and designs on fabric, mainly kimonos, by a resist dye technique. Ise-katagami stencils can be extremely intricate and fragile. Pieces of the pattern are suspended in place by human hairs (visible in examples shown here) and, later, fine silk threads. The level of detail and craftsmanship can be astonishing. Many of the designs achieve a high degree of sophistication. There appears to be no significant text in English on the subject, or exhibition of katagami in recent years. Although katagami are beautiful objects in and of themselves, museum collections have tended to view them as tools, consigning them (arguably) to a lower status in a hierarchy of worthiness for attention.
Engravings showing the historical techniques, tools and materials of book-making
Comprising the sets of engravings from Diderot’s Encyclopédie that collectively illustrate the manufacture of books in 18th century France. Approximately 90 engraved plates printed in the 1760s-early 1770s cover the crafts of papermaking (Papetterie), type founding (Fonderie en Caracteres), letterpress printing (Imprimerie en Lettres), intaglio printing (Imprimerie en Taille Douce; Gravure à l’Eau Forte), wood engraving (Gravure en Bois), bookbinding (Relieur), paper marbling (Marbreur de Papier), leather tanning and patterning (Tanneur; Hongroyeur; Maroquinier), and manufacture of gold leaf (Batteur d’Or). Less obvious tools and techniques used in making books include needles (Aiguillier) and thread (Fil et Laine), among others. The Encyclopédie, edited by Denis Diderot (1713-1784), remains one of the great feats of publishing and bookmaking, and one of the most influential publications in the western world. It is generally credited as a milestone of the Enlightenment. The first complete printing of 27 volumes spanned from 1760 to 1772. The engravings related to book arts are a fraction of the illustrations included in the complete work.
Caricatures of 1850s Paris
Thumbnail image: detail of Carjat's portrait of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901).
Under construction. Étienne Carjat (1828-1906) is primarily known in France as a pioneering 19th-century portrait photographer. He was a contemporary and long-time friend of the better-known French photographer called “Nadar.” Carjat was also an accomplished caricaturist who produced a series of relief-print and lithographic portraits of prominent Parisian actors, composers, artists, authors and politicians of 1850’s Paris. His printed portraits include Alexandre Dumas (father and son), Balzac, Nadar, Rossini, Hector Berlioz, Verdi, and George Sand. His caricatures (and photographs) have been acclaimed for capturing the subjects' personalities with great sensitivity. However, his surviving output was not as extensive or influential as certain contemporaries, and Carjat’s ongoing reputation waned over time in comparison to Nadar and Honoré Daumier. He remains better-known for his portrait photography. However, his influence can (arguably) be seen in the contemporary caricatures of David Levine (1926-2009), best known for his work for the New York Review of Books. There is no evidence of any exhibition devoted to the printed portraits of Carat and nothing published in English.
Hector Berlioz (1803-69)
Himalayan Buddhist and Bon woodblock printing
This collection includes original woodblocks and prints originating in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and China and dating from the 18th through the 20th century. These blocks were originally used to print Buddhist and Bon (the indigenous Himalayan religion) charms, amulets and a wide range of devotional images, including Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, guardian deities, historic figures, mythical creatures, auspicious emblems, mandalas and prayer flags. The quality of craftsmanship and sophistication of design ranges from the primitive to highly sophisticated, with examples rivaling in detail the finest woodcuts executed in the west. Individual blocks range in size from one inch square to 40 inches square. Although woodblock printing plays a significant role in Himalayan religious practice, the blocks and prints are rarely exhibited and only infrequently studied, the market and museums finding greater value and interest in brightly colored thangka paintings and gilded statues. The collection is augmented by examples of carved wood molds (zan par) used to cast effigies (torma) out of dough, and wood and brass moulds (tsa tsa), used to cast clay offerings. Examples of actual ritual objects of the type depicted in the woodblocks may be added to an exhibition. Hand printing of a limited edition of a pair of the largest blocks (c. 40 x 40 inches), and/or other blocks could coincide with an exhibition. Pied Oxen Printers is in the process of planning two books using original blocks (See INCHOATE).
A demon or disease-binding charm. c. 19th c.
Himalayan Buddhist and Bon book covers
Protecting the dharma
This collection includes carved, painted and gilt wood and metal-clad sutra covers from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Himalayan sutra covers –mostly Tibetan, but including Nepalese and Sino-Tibetan examples— are rarely exhibited in U. S. museum collections and have been the subject of only a few dedicated publications. The few examples that are exhibited or published favor the more elaborate gilded and painted examples. However, the range of styles, decoration and construction is much wider, including examples no less interesting or beautiful for their relative simplicity. The iconography may or may not directly reflect the manuscript sutras (Buddhist and Bon teachings) that were originally contained between the decorated top and bottom boards. The collection includes several examples of the manuscript and printed sutras themselves. Except for a gallery exhibition in 1996 (in London and New York) there appears to be no other exhibition dedicated to this art form in recent years.
A vase of plenty with vines scrolling into roundels, 14-15th c.
Twenty four stupas, 13-14th c.
Carved end of a sutra cover depicting Shakyamuni Buddha, stupa, scrolling vines and the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet, "ka," 14-15th c.
The German Revolution of 1848
History in typography and vice versa
Under construction. Broadsides printed in Berlin during the German Revolution of 1848 were influential in shaping how the literate population perceived current events. Printers rose to the occasion with inspired typography and illustrations, satire and caricature. Typical of this form of communication, examples were printed on thin inexpensive papers. Despite the effort and skill that went into producing them, the printed sheets were of the moment, ephemeral, and not meant to survive. Apart from their obvious historical interest, the surviving broadsides uniquely reflect the typography of a time, just a few months in 1848, and a place, Berlin. Particularly noteworthy is the use of the German black-letter known as fraktur, a style of types associated with the German language and printing, at the moment when the modern German state was forming. This also happens to be the historical moment when Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were engaging in events to connect their theories with practice.
The Cuban Revolution
A photographic record
The Cuban Revolution inspired celebrated and unknown photographers alike to produce a uniquely evocative and artistic historical record. The Revolution represents a high water mark for twentieth-century black & white photojournalism. This exhibition comprises 80-120+ vintage black & white photographs depicting people, places, and events in Cuba during the period 1948-1965. Most were created by Cuban photographers—notably, Alberto Korda, Fidel Castro’s official photographer and personal friend, and Osvaldo Salas, whose photographs remain widely recognized and influential. Others are the work of photographers for U.S. press outlets and wire services. Most of these photographs have rarely -if ever- been seen or published outside of Cuba. Subjects include key leaders of the Revolution, including Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and leading revolutionary commandants, as well as photos related to the overthrown Batista government, U. S. ambassadors to Cuba before and in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, U. S. Vice President Richard Nixon and President Eisenhower, and Nikita Khrushchev. Images date from before and after the revolutionaries gained control of the government in 1959. Other groups of images document the pre-revolution student activists and events, counter-revolutionary events, the Soviet connection, women and children in the revolution, group portraits of the victors and the vanquished, the Bay of Pigs, prisoners, military tribunals and executions, parades, among other subjects.
Eighty of these images, selected and arranged by David Sellers, who also wrote the detailed captions, were exhibited from December 5, 2015 to January 26, 2016 at Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School, Bernstein Gallery. This collection is currently available for exhibition and will be the subject of a book expected to be published in early 2019.
Note: In December 2016 David Sellers travelled to Havana where he visited sites depicted in the photographs and museums dedicated to preserving the official narrative, and met with cultural authorities to discuss the collection.
Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos enter Havana, January 8, 1959. Photo by Luis Korda.
Dressed for the VIII anniversary of the Moncada Army Barracks attack, July 26, 1961. Photo by Alberto Korda.
Che Guevara, early 1959. Photographer unidentified.