Outside the Box

Outside the Box

This summer the Hammer Museum will host a major exhibition marking the joint acquisition of the complete archive of prints by Los Angeles publisher Edition Jacob Samuel by the UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Since 1988 Jacob Samuel has published 43 portfolios of prints made by a diverse group of international artists, including Marina Abramovic, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Mona Hatoum, Rebecca Horn, Anish Kapoor, Barry McGee, Ed Moses, Matthew Monahan, Wangechi Mutu, Gabriel Orozco, Nancy Rubins, Ed Ruscha, Robert Therrien, James Welling, Christopher Wool, and Andrea Zittel, among many others. Working primarily in series in intaglio mediums such as etching, drypoint, and aquatint, Samuel has invited artists to create prints in his Santa Monica studio but has also traveled internationally to collaborate with artists in their own studios. The number of prints included in each portfolio range from 6 to 36, with more than 550 individual prints included in the 43 portfolios. The exhibition will be situated in the museum’s main temporary exhibition galleries and will include all the published portfolios, as well as related proofs and other preparatory works.

The exhibition is organized by the Hammer Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is curated by Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts and deputy director of collections at the Hammer Museum, with Britt Salvesen, department head and curator of the Wallis Annenberg department of photography and department head and curator of prints and drawings, and Leslie Jones, associate curator of prints and drawings, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Interview with Jacob Samuel

By Cynthia Burlingham, Leslie Jones, and Britt Salvesen

February 26, 2010

Leslie Jones: Would you describe why you were first drawn to etching and discuss its role within the context of printmaking in Los Angeles?

Jacob Samuel: My background was originally in black-and-white photography. I went to art school in the Bay Area, which has a really rich tradition in that medium. Because I was a photographer, I never thought of myself as an artist who painted or drew. When I graduated college in 1973, I felt very uncertain about my future as a photographer because there really wasn’t any such thing as fine art photography then. And I knew I wasn’t going to go the commercial route. The professors at the school were combining photography and conceptual art at this time, and at the same time it wasn’t so important what you photographed. More important were the formal parameters you brought to the print. So that was my orientation. 

In 1974 I was offered an apprenticeship at a commercial etching shop in Santa Monica, and I took it in a heartbeat. It was a very good training ground for me because it was straight commercial work. I was doing large editions of two to three hundred prints. I learned about such issues as hairline registration, working in different colors, and quality control from beginning to end. 

And at the time I became very interested in the history of printmaking in Los Angeles. One of the first things I did was go to the Grunwald Center when it was at the Dickson Art Center at UCLA. I looked at the entire Tamarind Lithography Workshop archive there. Then I went to Gemini G.E.L. But what really got me was going to Cirrus Editions. I liked what the artists were doing there, particularly Charles Christopher Hill and Joe Goode, because it was coming out of process art.

Cynthia Burlingham:
And when did you decide that you wanted to be a master printer? 

CB: How many printers were there in L.A. at that time who could do etching?


CB: Were you looking at what was happening with etching publishers elsewhere?

LJ: So was it at that point that you became a master printer?



CB: So you were also always interested in that historical aspect of prints?


LJ: How do you define the role of a master printer?



Britt Salvesen: What were some of the other influences on your work?

LJ: So that’s when you started thinking about doing portfolios in boxes?


BS: And what was happening in art at the time that influenced you?



LJ: Do you have a favorite printmaker? 

CB: Did you become interested in the series format because of its relation to the book?

LJ: I think we should talk about how you went about establishing your traveling print shop. 





CB: Describe then that transition from working in the artist’s studio to having them come and visit you. Would you describe how having your own studio affected your way of working? 


CB: I want to ask about the portfolio box and how it evolved.

LJ: So do you think there will always be a place for etching?


Los Angeles magazine is the official media sponsor of the exhibition.