Acquired in 1991, the Crown Point Press Archive located at the Legion of Honor contains one impression (usually Artist’s Proof 6) from every print edition published by Crown Point Press as well as many proofs from editions printed, but not published, by the Press since its inception in 1962 to the present day. Also included in the archive are unique materials including artist’s preparatory sketches, notes, working proofs, blocks, and plates.
This valuable resource effectively documents Crown Point Press founder and director Kathan Brown’s efforts to promote etching as a flexible and modern printmaking medium for artists involved in all manner of art-making. The prints in the Crown Point Press Archive attest to the realization of Brown’s belief that a traditional medium such as etching can be a vehicle for new artistic approaches. From 1982 to 1994 several artists working with Crown Point explored woodcut techniques in the Asian tradition, working at the press’s programs in Japan and China.
The working proofs that form the bulk of the archive are perhaps the best evidence of the creative spirit fostered at Crown Point Press. As defined by Crown Point, working proofs are prints that exist in one impression and are printed so that the artist can see changes in the matrix during a printmaking project. They are often altered by hand, either with notations by the artist or printer, or with drawing in various media. Some artists make numerous working proofs, others make only one or two; the quantity of working proofs does not reflect an artist’s printmaking experience. Because so many artists who work at Crown Point Press are encouraged to consider etching as a medium that is open to experimentation, the working proofs also reveal an artist’s willingness to work with the surprises and possibilities inherent in the medium.
Bay area artists Robert Bechtle, Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud are well represented in the collection, as are John Cage, Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha and Pat Steir. More recently, artists like Julie Mehretu, Chris Ofili and Kiki Smith have explored the possibilities of intaglio printing in the twenty-first century at Crown Point Press.