/ by curt belshe

About

 

This project, 21st Century Caprichos (after Franscisco Goya) is based on a compelling premise. I believe the time is ripe for a revisiting and reworking of Goya’s Caprichos – one that seeks to reflect the implications of our current shifts in culture and technology in the same way that Goya did in his age. I bring to the project a strong background as a fine art printmaker and photographer with experience in the growing field of 3D printing.

One sees in the work of many artists a reflection of and response to the unique circumstances and cultural trends of their age. There exists a particularly strong tradition in printmaking of social observation and commentary. One thinks of Dauimer, Reginald Marsh, Isabel Bishop, Frans Hals, Hogarth and Bruegel (see attached) among others. An element of our times that calls out for the attention of artists is the ways in which smart devices and tablets are creating unique forms of actions and interactions. I feel that these reflect a moment in history, loaded with cultural meaning.

The posturing, etiquette and social interaction of our digital world are elucidated in evolving digital actions. Taking selfies, texting while driving, online bullying and sexting are all characteristics of our age as we transition to new ways of interacting with each other. In the age of Facebook and Linkedin, our sense of self can be as much a digital construct as a real one. I am interested in creating a series of prints that capture this transitional era and its wide-ranging social implications.

As mentioned, my direct inspiration for this project is the incredible series of prints by Franscisco De Goya, Los Caprichos. Goya described this work as depicting “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual.” In the Caprichos, Goya often illustrated figures that reflected the shift from the traditional culture of superstitions, clergy and the ruling class of the late 18th century to the rationality of a modernizing Europe. As Goya did in his time, this project seeks to explore a deep cultural shift at a moment when our world is on the edge of something dramatic that has yet to fully take shape. By revisiting and reworking Goya’s Caprichos, I hope to place our current societal “vagaries” in historical context.

This project will utilize current technologies including 3D printed figures, digital photography and solar printmaking to go full circle from the digital back to the physical print. By doing so, I wish to create a body of work that is placed within the context of the history of art. The series of prints will be similar in dimension and style, simulating the aquatints Goya is famous for, keeping the original titles and pagination marks (please see images at the end of this description). The original Los Caprichos is a series of 80 prints. As
I wish to use the original titles as much as possible, and many titles are not pertinent, I plan to do a portfolio of approximately 30 prints.

Producing this series will be quite involved technically. I am “sculpting” a series of 3D figures in various information-age poses. To “print” these 3D figures, I have received a
PSC-CUNY Research grant to purchase a 3D printer. These figures will then be digitally photographed in various groupings related to the structures and titles of Goya’s prints. The photos will be manipulated in Adobe Photoshop to create a background and to recreate the traditional aquatint quality used by Goya for the series. This image will be printed on film and used to create a “solar” plate for traditional printing.

In addition to producing this series as solar or photo-etchings, I also plan to reproduce certain images from the series using traditional aquatints and etching. This will allow for a comparison of a single image in three related formats, as produced and printed digitally, as a photo-etching, and as created with traditional aquatint and etching methods. From a personal perspective, this project would be an opportunity to return to my beginnings as a printmaker. For the solar or photo-etching, I plan to work with and have been in conversation with a printmaker in Dobbs Ferry, NY, Pepe Coronado of Coronado Printstudio, to help produce the series. For the traditional works, I am currently investigating various traditional print studios both in the New York City area and possibly in Europe, ideally Spain.

  

The artist, Curt Belshe, is a Professor of Digital Arts at Bronx Community College, part of the City University of New York. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and a BFA degree from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri.

He has shown throughout the Metro Area and received several grants from NY arts agencies, as well as CUNY Research Grants, for the creation of public and private art works. He has had one person shows featuring his printmaking and photography at the National Arboretum, Washington D.C., the Brooklyn Armory and at the Westchester Arts Workshop in White Plains. He is also in the permanent collection of the Dorksy Museum of Art, State University of New York at New Paltz.