This article was first published in Hand Papermaking Newsletter, Number 75, July 2006, pp.6-7. www.handpapermaking.org
PROFILES IN PAPER
Susan Gosin co-founded Dieu Donné Press & Paper in 1976. She regularly lectures and teaches papermaking, and has compiled a significant collection of interviews with noted personalities in the hand papermaking community. Here she writes about Ken Tyler, one of the leading contributors to our field.
As I have previously written in this column, many of the artists who initiated the hand papermaking movement in the United States gathered together for the first time at the First Hand Papermaking Conference in 1975 in Appleton, Wisconsin. All of these hand papermakers could trace their papermaking lineage, directly or indirectly, to Laurence Barker and his training with Douglass Howell. This “Paper Profile” is about a printer/publisher who became one of the most important contributors to the revival of hand papermaking and whose role in the development of the field was as distinct from other papermakers as it was influential.
Ken Tyler became involved with hand papermaking as a fine art publisher looking for both technical solutions and cutting edge innovation to add to his repertoire for fine print collaborations. Early in his training as a lithographer at the Tamarind Workshop in 1963, he tested the printing qualities of available domestic and European papers. Later as technical director of Tamarind (1964-65) and then as founder of Gemini Ltd. Workshop (1965), he developed working relationships with commercial papermakers at S.D. Warren Company in Maine and Zellerbach Paper Company in Los Angeles to research and develop new surfaces, colors, and sizes such as the oversized 3 x 6 foot Curtis rag paper used for Robert Rauschenberg’s print “Booster” in 1967. While at Tamarind, he was also introduced to Elie d’Humieres, the president of Arjomari-Prioux’s fine paper division; the makers of two classic French papers: Arches and Rives. During the next decade, Tyler worked closely with d’Humieres to improve and expand the Arlomari-Prioux line of fine art papers, developing a family of acid free papers named “Infinity” which set an industry standard for archival qualities. He also developed a special smooth surface paper named ‘Arches 88”, which was widely used as a silkscreen paper.
After a decade of fine print and commercial paper research, Tyler visited Cranbrook Academy of Art as a guest artist in 1970. Intrigued by the hand papermaking of Laurence Barker and his student, John Koller, Tyler commissioned them to make sheets of paper for a Roy Lichtenstein print series, “Modern Heads”, 1972. This led to future collaborations with Koller when he established his HMP Mill in Connecticut. It also motivated Tyler to delve more deeply into the opportunities that both commercial and handmade paper held for the artist. For a series of deeply embossed prints by Josef Albers produced during 1969-1971, Tyler worked with the Rochester Paper Company in Michigan to refine a machine-made, neutral ph, alpha wood pulp paper that would retain a matte surface under intense pressure.
He also developed with Rochester an acid free rag board, named “Gemini Rag Board”, that was first used for Frank Stella’s 1972 “Race Track” screenprints.
Then in 1973, Tyler, Elie d’Humieres, and Vera Freeman (of Andrews Nelson Whitehead, the NYC fine paper importers), joined forces to arrange the mill rental of Richard de Bas Mill in Ambert, France for Robert Rauschenberg. Using preprinted images, dyed cotton pulp, and cookie cutter templates, the team of master printers and hand papermakers helped Rauschenberg pioneer a new method of onsite studio collaboration and make some of the first iconic works of art in handmade paper. This groundbreaking project revealed the potential that papermaking held, not just as the support for an image but as an integral part of it. After relocating to Bedford, New York (1974), Tyler worked closely with John Koller at HMP Mill to introduce artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Ron Davis to this untapped potential. Tyler even constructed a three dimensional paper mould for a series of Frank Stella editions so that John Koller could “pull,” not cast, three- dimensional handmade sheets, which Stella colored with dyed pulp.
Anxious to explore larger scale works, he constructed his own papermill at Tyler Graphics in early 1978 and launched the new facility by creating over 300 unique colored paper pulp images with Ken Noland. David Hockney visited Tyler Graphics in the summer of that year. Though Hockney had not intended to stay, nor try his hand at papermaking, Tyler persuaded him to give it a try. During the next forty-nine days, Tyler assisted Hockney as he worked feverishly creating a body of pulp paintings of such fluidity, color, and scale that they are acknowledged masterpieces of Hockney’s as well as of the artistic potential of the papermaking process. These “Paper Pools” which were created purely from paper pulp, brought widespread public attention to hand papermaking, while securing critical approval of the process as a legitimate art medium.
In the 1980s, Tyler returned to using the role of handmade paper as a substrate and partner for fine printing in the lithographs, woodcuts, and etchings that he published with artists such as Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell, James Rosenquist, and Helen Frankenthaler. The artist-designed custom paper manufactured at Tyler’s facility for these multi-media editions often included multiple layers of sprayed and stenciled colored pulp, as well as various forms of surface printing. Tyler continued to encourage and support artists who were eager to include papermaking as a part of the image making process. James Rosenquist took advantage of this generosity to push the boundaries of scale in his editions of paper and print art. Using oversized deckle boxes to create giant 5 x 10 foot sheets of handmade paper, Rosenquist was then suspended on scaffolding that rolled above the freshly made paper so that he could spray colored pulp into stencils to create the background for the collaged images. “Time Dust,” created in 1992 and measuring 35 feet in length, was the last and longest of these paper murals.
In the signature style he developed over decades of exploring and exploiting the unique marriage of paper and print, Ken Tyler continued to create editions of some of the most sophisticated art from a stable of the most extraordinary 20th century artists. But as the millennium approached, Tyler sought and found a new home for his state of the art facility. Working with the Singapore government, Tyler relocated his shop and reopened it as The Singapore Tyler Print Institute where it continues, into the 21st century, the tradition of fine art collaboration, which Tyler helped to define for decades in The United States.
Today, Ken Tyler has retired from printing and continues giving lectures and workshops around the world. Currently he is visiting Professor at the Royal College of Art, London, and working on publishing a series of photo/print journals in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Canberra, Australia, which has the largest archive of his 40 years of printmaking.