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Wild and Immaculate: Kenneth Tyler's Early Use of Handmade Paper at Gemini G.E.L.

Summer 2019
Summer 2019
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Amy Elizabeth Hughes is the Andrew W. Mellon fellow in paper conservation at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where she is currently researching the variety of papers used for printmaking by Jasper Johns. Hughes' prior conservation experience includes fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Galleries. She received her BA in literature from New College of Florida, and an MA in art history with an advanced certificate in conservation from NYU's Institute of Fine Arts Conservation Center. It was February 1970 when Kenneth Tyler first made the journey of over 2,000 miles from Los Angeles to Osaka, Japan. Tyler was travelling with Claes Oldenburg to install the artist's monumental sculptural work,Giant Ice Bag (1969–1970), in the American Pavilion for Expo '70. It was the first International Exposition ever held in Asia, and the setting was accordingly grand.  The sculpture itself captured the imagination of Japanese spectators. Giant Ice Bag—a mountainous, salmon-pink, hydraulically animated marvel—would rank second in popularity only to the Apollo 11 "moon rock" on display nearby.1 The Japanese flocked to the American Pavilion, fascinated by what seemed to them a curiosity from a strange foreign culture. Likewise, Tyler became enthralled by Japan.

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The trip proved to be a turning point in his career, sparking his love of handmade papers. Tyler left Japan with the fleeting, yet indelible impression of brightly col-ored strips of washi, seen from a speeding car, decorating some building that might as easily have been a temple as a school. A variety of sights and sounds lingered from that trip, which would prove to be the first of many.2 Those kaleidoscopic impressions of washi lingered in the back of Tyler's mind, and remained there to be mined for inspiration over decades' worth of artist collaborations. At the time of the Japan Expo, Ken Tyler was recognized as a celeb-rity master printer.  He had collaborated with renowned artists like Josef Albers, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella. But before winning acclaim in the international art world, his formative training in lithography was in the workshop of Garo Antreasian at the John Her-ron School in Indianapolis during 1962–1963. He would build upon his studies with Antreasian, completing a Ford Foundation fellowship in 1963 at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop. From 1964 to 1965, Tyler continued on at Tamarind, serving as the Workshop's technical direc-tor. Ken Tyler is a notoriously driven innovator and problem-solver, and it is well known that he has always approached printmaking with the attitude that "anything is possible."3 Tyler was not only interested in the mechanics of presses, stones, metal plates, and inking. Under the leadership of June Wayne (the founder of Tamarind and champion of fine art lithography in the Unit-ed States), Tyler devoted significant time at Tamarind to the research of commercial papers appropriate to lithography. This testing focused primarily on mould-made papers, but also included some handmade pa-pers formed in high-production mills such as J. Barcham Green's Hayle Mill. Since the very start of her venture with Tamarind, Wayne had been concerned with sourcing high-quality printing papers. She called the lack of suitable paper the "paper problem" and wrote in one letter from 1959 to the Ford Foundation: "It is astonishing but true that one cannot buy proper paper in this country. Our manufacturers do not make it, and importers do not stock it as there is little demand or sophistication about this among our printmakers."4 Attempting to remedy her supply prob-lems, Wayne collaborated with the paper importers Andrews/Nelson/Whitehead to identify possible candidates for printing from stone. As new paper samples came into the workshop, they were tested for proper-ties such as light-fastness, pH, absorbency, stretch, and curl. For his part, Tyler was involved with empirical testing of the European printing pa-pers (Rives, Arches, Barcham Green, Fabriano, and Magnani). He visu-ally evaluated their performance by printing washes of black and colored inks on dry sheets of the papers.  In early 1965, Tyler left Tamarind to start his own custom lithogra-phy firm, Gemini Ltd. As a contract shop, Gemini Ltd. lasted only one year before Tyler partnered with Sidney B. Felsen and Stanley Grinstein to form the publishing house and print workshop Gemini G.E.L in 1966. Until he left the partnership in 1973 to form Tyler Graphics Ltd., Tyler served as the main collaborating printmaker on every artist's proj-ect at Gemini G.E.L. He continued the attitude of Antreasian's forward-thinking influence. He invented new techniques and uses of materials, striving to improve upon the methods of traditional lithographers. For example, one of his innovative hydraulic press designs featured a 42 x 89 inch printing bed.5 This outsized printing bed required outsized papers to match. Motivated in part by size, Tyler began his own collabo-rations with large paper corporations to produce special batches with unique characteristics for his artists. Sue Gosin has traced those col-laborations, and remarks that Tyler's "constant contact with both the fine art and commercial paper sectors gave him the clout to push for higher archival standards and a wider range of types of papers, as did the growing demand for the work produced by Gemini and other shops."6 Tyler's technical background—starting with his experience in the Engi-neer's Corps during the Korean war, along with several years working for a specialty steel strip manufacturer—prepared him to develop his ideas alongside leading figures of the paper industry. These collabora-tions would include research and development of new types of paper with the S.D. Warren Company, Rochester Paper Company, Zellerbach Paper Company, and most famously, the French papermaking conglomerate Arjomari-Prioux.  Ken Tyler would approach product development with these in-dustrial giants as if they were making small batches of handmade paper. Why not make a customized version of Arches or Rives BFK for the use of a specialty printmaker in Los Angeles? For Tyler, nothing was impossible—he simply knew that he needed to give to his artists a beautiful surface on which to make prints. Looking through the National Gallery of Art's Gemini G.E.L. On-line Catalogue Raisonné, one sees that the majority of Tyler's work-shop projects from his time at Gemini (1966–1973) are printed not on handmade paper, but on machine-made papers produced by mills in the Arjomari-Prioux group.7 These papers are named, for the most part, either Arches Cover, Rives BFK, or Arjomari.8 Indeed, the large format, bright white, flawlessly mould-made quality of Arjomari paper was an element of the signature  "look" of prints from the Gemini G.E.L. workshop such as Jasper Johns' lithographs from the Color Numerals Series. Writing about "The Gemini Surface," curator Philip Larson commented that "Central to the Gemini attitude is Arjomari paper, a particularly brilliant, homogenous surface developed exclusively for prints made in Gemini's own shop. Its master printers have matched this whiter than white paper with special inks of unsurpassed evenness and luminosity."9 What often goes unsaid are the finan-cial obligations that played a part in paper selection at Gemini G.E.L. The workshop had to purchase massive amounts of this special-order Arjomari paper to satisfy Arjomari-Prioux, and art-ists' paper selection was driven in part by the paper inventory on hand in the workshop. Ken Tyler's attitude to paper began to change in 1970, kindled by that formative voyage to Japan, and stoked by a serendipitous visit to Cranbrook Academy of Art a few months later. Tyler went to Cranbrook as a guest artist in its printmaking department, which was headed at that time by the printmaker and papermaker Laurence Barker. Barker, who had trained for a short time with Douglass Morse Howell, describes Tyler's visit: "Ken Tyler came to Cranbrook in late spring of 1970 to give a lithography work-shop and predictably enough got excited over our modest paper operation which, as I have described many times before, was contained in what had been a double janitor's closet. . . . Ken Tyler may not have been the only paper-sensitive print publisher on the scene thirty-odd years ago—I'm thinking principally of Tatyana Grossman \[sic\] of Universal Limited Art Editions for whom Dou-glass Howell occasionally made paper—but \[Tyler\] was far and away the most enthusiastic."10 Tyler was sufficiently impressed by Barker's outfit that he commissioned several hundred sheets of what he calls "baby dia-per paper" from Barker. The waterleaf paper—soft, white, and su-premely absorbent—was indeed made from old diapers and other rags gathered from housewives and diaper banks around Cran-brook; these rags "were very well used, practically threadbare."11 Barker explains that papermakers can predict the type of paper that will result from a certain source "with eyes closed," just by tearing a piece of the rag. An easily torn rag will create a wonder-fully soft, absorbent paper, while a difficult-to-tear piece of new linen for example, will create a stiff sheet that is rattly hard. Tyler, of course, knew that a soft sheet with little to no sizing would print a beautiful lithograph, having the maximum degree of ab-sorption to hold a properly formulated ink just in the surface of the paper.  At least 300 sheets of "diaper paper" were formulated by Barker and produced by John Koller during the summer of 1970. The sheets were delivered in time to become the support for two prints by Roy Lichtenstein, Modern Head #2 and Modern Head #3, part of a series of five called Modern Heads. John Koller was one of Laurence Barker's students, and the one most interested and skilled at making paper at that time. They used the following equipment available at Cranbrook: "a 1½-lb. Hollander beater, an ancient cast iron screw press requiring hand pressing using an eight ft. bar, an antique mould from J. Barcham Green, and a rack of drying screens where the newly made sheets would be laid out to air dry."12 Compared to the mechanically perfect sheets of mould-made Arjomari, the Barker/Koller sheets are wild. They contain numerous knots, combinations of long and short fibers, inclusions, and random specks of studio dirt. The four edges have beautifully uneven deckles, the un-mistakable product of a hand-crafted sheet. The sheets are not quite as bright as Arjomari, but bright enough to cre-ate striking contrast between printed and unprinted areas. For Lichtenstein's Modern Heads series' #2 and #3, Tyler and the artist employed a linecut printmaking technique, pressing the paper against deeply engraved zinc printing plates under formidable pressure from a hydraulic press. The paper is deeply embossed, blank areas standing proud of the generously inked black background.  Tyler explains he "knew the waterleaf paper would be very suitable for linecut printing. The deckle edges of this paper with the bleed of the printing was perfect for this project—Roy liked the look."13 It may surprise some that Lichtenstein embraced the look of this handmade deckle, considering the artist's later comment that: "A large num-ber of the first prints are, I think, pretty mechanical. I wanted them to seem as mechanical as possible. The Ca-thedrals series, Haystacks, Modern Heads, and Peace through Chemistry had a precision that I wanted to achieve in the prints because it's impossible through painting."14 Lich-tenstein's preference for the handmade appearance is also surprising given its incongruity with the series' "signifi-cant use of technology borrowed from industry," a choice by Lichtenstein that included the use of a hydraulic press for embossing, and the assistance of the Angell Manufac-turing company for machining the aluminum of Modern Head #4.15 But it is the tension produced by the very ma-terials of these prints that represents Lichtenstein's on-going interest in the dichotomy between handmade and machine-made.  Modern Heads was a pivotal project for Tyler's approach to paper selection and collaboration with papermakers. Prior to the Modern Heads series, Tyler's energies had been focused on customizing papers produced at commercial mills. Following Modern Heads, however, Tyler had the opportunity to commission paper himself, directly from the papermaker, with no industry intermediary or inter-locutor. The Modern Heads project led to more substantive collaborations with John Koller (following his graduation from Cranbrook in 1970). Koller would go on to become a full-time papermaker, founding HMP mill in Woodstock, Connecticut along with his wife Kathleen Koller in 1973. Three years later, under the auspices of Tyler's new print shop, Tyler Graphics Ltd., HMP mill would participate in one of the greatest collaborations between artist, print-maker, and papermaker to date: Ellsworth Kelly's Colored Paper Images. Alongside his burgeoning efforts to collaborate with hand papermakers stateside, Tyler enlisted the centuries-long expertise of the papermakers at Richard de Bas mill in 1973. In the world of papermaking, and in the greater art world as well, the Richard de Bas mill is celebrated for hav-ing hosted Robert Rauschenberg and Gemini staff in the production of the artist's works in paper pulp titled Pages and Fuses. Tyler became acquainted with the mill through two commercial paper contacts with whom he was friends: Vera Freeman and Elie d'Humières.  Vera Freeman represented Andrews/Nelson/White-head, the American distributor for Richard de Bas paper, and regularly corresponded with Tyler, d'Humières, and Marius A. Péraudeau, the owner of Richard de Bas. Elie d'Humières was then the President of the Arjomari-Prioux Handmade Papers Division, and possessed a vast knowl-edge of fine paper production across France. Richard de Bas was, and still is, an ancient mill with a long history of nearly continual operation since as early as the mid-fifteenth century. Its papers are still watermarked "1326" with a banded or wrapped heart, though scholars believe that date is exceedingly early for papermaking at the site.16 When he proposed the collaborative project to Rauschenberg, Tyler knew that the age and remote loca-tion of the mill in the hills of Auvergne, France would hold a certain allure for the artist. He suggested the project to Rauschenberg in particular, because of the artist's person-ality and receptivity to others' ideas. Rauschenberg was the ideal partner for a collaboration of this scale and subject, and Tyler knew that the artist would approach working in the new technique with a zeal and exuberance unique to Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg, Gemini staff, Freeman, and d'Humeries descended on the mill and worked for four days straight. The artist completed eight prints out of 29 editions while in residence, allowing the papermakers at Richard de Bas to complete the remainder. Upon comple-tion of the project, Péraudeau presented Tyler with a me-mento of the trip: a bound album with photographs of the week spent working and picnicking, all mounted on sheets of Richard de Bas paper. Though all of the papermakers from the time of the Pages and Fuses collaboration are now retired, the Robert Rauschenberg/Gemini event lives on in the imagination of a younger generation at Richard de Bas. It has become part of the mythos of the mill, and serves as inspiration for the future, beyond the bounds of daily operations. To-day, the Richard de Bas mill is managed by two cousins, Sylvain Péraudeau (grandson of Marius) and Emmanuel Kerbourc'h. Sylvain Péraudeau was told by his parents and mill workers where Rauschenberg slept, but he was not born early enough himself to witness the artist working in the mill.17 They say that Richard de Bas is poised to make a come-back in France. Péraudeau and Kerbourc'h are dedicated to promoting educational tours of the mill, as well as raising the profile of their handmade paper in France, using the same recipes that they claim have not changed for centu-ries. The water wheel still powers wooden stampers, which remain in motion nearly day and night to reduce linen and cotton rags to pulp.  The "immaculate surface" of Gemini prints, said to origi-nate with the Josef Albers White Line Square lithographs of 1966, persisted through Ken Tyler's time with Gemini face" of Tyler's collaborations likely ended with Pages and Fuses. The polished look that Tyler helped to create began to recede for him around 1970, albeit in sometimes barely perceptible ways. The fact that a wild and knotty American handmade paper was used as a support for two of Lichten-stein's precision Modern Heads demonstrates that both art-ist and printmaker were seeking out something new, even if that "something new" in the context of twentieth-century Los Angeles turned out to be the product of a centuries-old, practically forgotten craft. When Tyler began his new venture, Tyler Graphics Ltd., in 1974, he continued to offer new and exciting techniques to his artists, including the ability to work with paper pulp and customized handmade paper supports. Tyler remarks: "It is notable that none of this could have happened at Gemini—my move to the East Coast and slowing setting up a multi-media printing facil-ity and paper mill, that only worked on in-depth projects with a few artists made this journey into handmade pa-per possible."18 Some of the greatest creative innovations in the marriage of printmaking and papermaking came about because of Kenneth Tyler and Tyler Graphics Ltd., thanks to Tyler's early interest and engagement with com-mercial paper mills and with hand papermakers.  NOTES 1. Philip Shabecoff, "Moon Rock Fascinates Osaka Crowd," New York Times, March 16, 1970, 14. 2. Ken Tyler, interview by the author, December 18, 2018, Lakeville, CT. 3. "From the shop's beginning, its spirit has been based on the premise that anything is possible," from Ruth Fine, Gemini G.E.L.: Art and Collaboration: \[Exhibition\] National Gallery of Art, Washington (Washington, DC: The National Gallery of Art, 1984), 32. 4. June Wayne, Letter to the Ford Foundation, July 23, 1959, June Wayne Papers (Collection 562). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. 5. Ken Tyler, "The Herron Connection: Ken Tyler Speaks with Valerie Eickmeier," from Valerie Eickmeier, Kenneth Tyler: The Art of Collaboration, Galleries at Herron Schoool of Art + Design, exhibition catalogue (Indianapolis, IN: Herron School of Art and Design, 2018), 14. 6. Sue Gosin, "Paper as an Active Partner: A History of Kenneth Tyler's Breakthroughs in Papermaking," Art on Paper 7, no. 1 (September–October 2002): 78.  See also: Sue Gosin, Hand Papermaking Newsletter, no. 75 (July 2006): 6–7. 7. Gemini G.E.L. Online Catalogue Raisonné, (accessed December 11, 2019). 8. Ken Tyler, email message to the author, January 9, 2019. The paper named "Arjomari" has frustrated paper scholars, since a paper with that name was not sold and marketed to the public, as far as the current author has discovered. "When I started collaborating with Arjomari many of the test papers I received from the mill were small rolls for testing and had no special names. If I had enough of this experimental paper left-over after my testing, I would use it for editions and name it "Special Arjomari" on the Gemini documentation sheets. From late 1968 on I was special ordering ton lots of 52-inch wide roll paper that the mill and I no longer considered experimental." That paper was simply called "Arjomari," and shows up in editions published beginning in 1969. 9. Philip Larson, "The Gemini Surface," in Johns, Kelly, Lichtenstein, Motherwell, Nauman, Rauschenberg, Serra, Stella: Prints from Gemini G.E.L., An Exhibition Organized by Walker Art Center (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1974), 4. 10. Laurence Barker, "I Dreamt I Schlepped Paper in my Summer Pajamas and Other Confessions," Dieu Donné Pulp, no. 32 ( January–March 2001): 9–10. 11. Laurence Barker, interview by the author, March 5, 2018, Bloomfield Hills, MI. 12. John Koller, email message to the author, January 6, 2019. 13. Ken Tyler, email message to the author, January 9, 2019. 14. Roy Lichtenstein, "An Interview," in Roy Lichtenstein, Graphic Work, 1970–1980: Whitney Museum of American Art, Downtown Branch, at Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall Street, October 14 to November 25, 1981, exhibition . 15. Mary Lee Corlett, The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonné 1948–1997 (New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2002), 111. 16. The date 1326 is based upon a notarized document found at the archives of the town of Puy bearing the banded heart watermark, but paper scholar Michel Boy argues that paper production did not begin in the area until the early fifteenth century. See Michel Boy and Jean-Louis Boithias, Moulins, Papiers et Papetiers d'Auvergne: Livradois-Forez, Ambert, Richard-de-Bas, (Champetières: Montmarie, 2013). 17. Sylvain Péraudeau, interview by the author, October 16, 2018, Ambert, France. 18. Ken Tyler, email message to the author, January 9, 2019.