Beginning in January of 2010 Philadelphia Pennsylvania will host the first annual Philagrafika print festival. This international festival is one of the largest art events in the country and the world’s most important print-related exhibit.
Opening on January 29, 2010, viewers will have the opportunity to see contemporary art that utilizes printmaking in new and innovative ways. Works will be displayed in five major venues: Moore College of Art & Design; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA); Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Print Center; and Temple Gallery, Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Overall, 80 venues in Philadelphia will be exhibiting work.
Virgil Marti, one of the artists whose work will be displayed in Moore College of Art & Design, was the Conrad Nelson artist-in-residence here at Millersville University last semester. His work includes generously decorative, 1970’s inspired sculptures and textiles. In a recent interview in Philadelphia, he spoke about his work, printmaking, and the Philagrafika festival.
Lauren Nye: At what point in your career did printmaking become important, or did it become a part of your work through the necessity of the processes?
Virgil Marti: I started using it after I finished graduate school. I had done a lot of screen-printing in high school and liked it, but I hadn’t really used it in ten years. When I was in graduate school I was trying to make things that looked like wallpaper but I wasn’t actually making wallpaper, so I sought out to re-learn screen-printing so that I could make my own wallpaper. That was when I apprenticed at the Fabric Workshop, and I stuck around there until they hired me as a printer.
LN: The idea of accessibility comes up in your work especially through the wallpaper pieces. Do you think this speaks to the accessibility of printmaking in general?
VM: I like that wallpaper is something that everyone has contact with. Whether or not they have it in their house it’s something they have experience with. What I like about screen-printing is that it is very simple and you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. It’s the kind of thing you can do on your own outside of school, unlike a process like lithography or etching because you need a press. I also liked the idea of making something that looked like I didn’t necessarily make it, that looked like something I could have just found at a store. Using the printing process to remove my hand and make it look kind of mass-produced is interesting to me too.
LN: As an artist living and working in Philadelphia, what has your involvement been with the Print Collaborative and the Philagrafika festival up to this point?
VM: Back when it was the Print Collaborative, they put out a portfolio of editioned prints every year with a few selected artists who worked with the different print studios around Philadelphia. They asked me to do a print for them a few years ago as a fundraiser and then I was approached about the Philagrafika 2010 show. I have been in contact with José Roca, one of the curators, and Lorie Mertes, who runs the galleries at Moore College of Art and Design, because that is where my work is going to be.
LN: Your earlier works are considered to be louder in their tone. The more recent works in comparison are quieter, is this a purposeful direction?
VM: When I was younger and making work I felt like I needed to get people’s attention so it made sense to make louder art. The more recent work is more subtle as a symptom of having been working for awhile and being able to control my voice better. I’ve also, a lot of times, made something very bright and hot and then the next piece was quieter, whiter, and colder. I’ve always worked between those two extremes. The white-on-white work was something that was unexpected of me, and I have desired to do things that people would not expect of me.
You can find more information about Philagrafika and Virgil Marti at their website, philagrafika2010.org