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Robert Motherwell

Redness of Red

1985, Medium: Lithograph and screenprint in colors with collage


Medium: Lithograph and screenprint in colors with collage

Sheet size: 24 x 16 1/8 inches

Frame size: 31 7/8 x 23 3/4 inches

Printer: Tyler Graphics, Ltd., New York

Publisher: Tyler Graphics, Ltd., New York

Catalogue raisonne: Engberg and Banach 354

Edition size: 100

Signed and numbered, lower margin




It was not until 1966, in response to a creative block following his 1965 MoMA retrospective, that Robert Motherwell began to devote serious time to printmaking. Finding it hard to paint in the “torment of my private studio,” Motherwell found solace in the collaborative nature of printmaking while working with master printer Irwin Hollander at ULAE. Motherwell described the process of making prints as a “psychological advantage that lay in the cooperation and the sociability of working with a craftsman.” However, the artist soon felt constrained by lithography and began to experiment with creating a new technique that was better suited to his artistic style.

In 1972, Motherwell began to work with Kenneth Tyler at Gemini G.E.L. It was with Tyler that Motherwell developed the innovative hybrid of the collaged print with lithograph. During this period, works such as Redness of Red were made. Motherwell had been making collages for decades, describing the medium as one of the twentieth century’s greatest innovations. In translating this medium into prints, Motherwell scaled down the number of pieces needed to create a collage, instead creating a sort of illusion of one. In Redness of Red, what appears to be many different scraps of paper, such as sheet music and an advertisement, is actually comprised of just three attached printed sheets, which helped ensure that each multiple was consistent. The overall composition is unified by the vibrant shades of red, which stand out against the neutral colors in the composition. The subtle variations work together to create a sense of harmony of color. The careful balance of color and form reflect the artist’s poetic approach to his work.

Writing in 1979, Motherwell stated, “one of the unique characteristics of printing is that, after all the creative struggle, conflicts, revisions, starts and restarts that go into the process of trying to make a human expression as equivalent as possible to states of being - all that is buried in the working proofs! In the final editions, the traces of struggle vanish.”  Yet, while he was able to produce balanced and beautiful compositions such as Redness of Red, for Motherwell, no work was ever truly complete and forever remained a “work in progress.”


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