Printmaking is one of the oldest forms of art there is, beginning with the Sumerians in 3000 B.C. who would engrave designs and writing on stone cylinders and then roll them on soft clay tablets, a kind of early printing press. Throughout the following millennia, a number of printmaking techniques were developed all around the world, using a variety of materials like wood, metal, acids, fabric, stencils glass and, of course, paper. The different techniques result in prints that vary widely in appearance, from the painted aesthetic of monotype to the thick, dark lines of a woodcut.
You can see many types of printmaking styles represented at the new exhibit in Kaddatz Galleries’ Studio K, “Major Arcana: Black Arts Tarot.” The exhibit’s introduction reads, “The Black Arts is an old term describing the discipline of printmaking, because of the technical ability to create very rich, deep blacks.”
Cards and printmaking have been linked for almost 600 years. The first major master in the history of printmaking is an unknown German engraver known as “Master of the Playing Cards” who worked from the 1430s to the 1450s. There are 106 known engravings of his, including a set of playing cards in five suits. Another unknown German engraver who is known as Master E.S. was active from 1450 to 1467, the first printmaker to add his initials to his work, and also created sets of playing cards.
Tarot cards used to play games in the mid-15th century before being used for the divination they’re best known for today in the late 18th century. A tarot deck contains 78 cards split into two parts: the 22-card major arcana and the 56-card minor arcana. “Building on the tradition of artist-made playing and tarot cards, each of the 22 artists in this exhibition created a contemporary interpretation of one of the cards from the Major Arcana,” says the gallery’s description.
The exhibit was organized by J. Charles Cox of Fergus Falls, along with Joshua Butler and Matthew Hanson-Weller, both of Colorado. The idea for a printmaking tarot deck was Butler’s, Cox and Hanson-Weller helped find participants through a printmaking exchange. “A printmaking exchange entails a group of artists making their own print edition, then they send it to the organizer(s) so that one of each print can be collated into a collection and sent back out to the participants,” says Cox.
“Major Arcana: Black Arts Tarot” will be in Studio K for the rest of October. Kaddatz Galleries are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s closed Sunday and Monday.