Reviews : The History
Posted by dnprossi on 2010/9/9 17:29:57 ( 26712 reads )

The History by Marianna Vecellio
In 1959 two young students at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan - Valter and Eleonora Rossi, with their cousin Franco Cioppi, founded the 2RC Stamperia d’Arte atelier. They were of the idea that graphic art was an actual artistic genre along with sculpture and painting and not merely an off-spring. Valter and Eleonora's goal was to create a workshop where various graphic techniques could be developed in order to allow artists to work with the same freedom that they would use in other mediums.

The beginning: Lucio Fontana

In the early Sixties Valter and Eleonora Rossi printed their first graphic portfolio: a series of etchings by Fontana. The portfolio won them the first prize in Tokyo for graphic art.

Lucio Fontana was one of the most respected artists since the war, along with Alberto Burri. Fontana's approach to the material, his repeated interventions, with cuts and holes on the canvas and paper represented a new concept in the experimentation of space. Such new ways of engraving also became possibile due to the fact that the printing techniques used could partly preserve the tactility of the surface unique to this medium while also keeping the special concept of Fontana's works.

1965 - Alberto Burri. Photo by Valter Rossi

Hence 2RC Edizioni d'Arte was founded. Ever since the start it was clear that it intended to work with artists who were advanced in their research. Between 1962 and 1969 the following artists all went to print with 2RC: Alberto Burri, Gio Pomodoro, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Giulio Turcato, Giuseppe Santomaso, Piero Dorazio, Pietro Consagra, Achille Perilli, Beverly Pepper, Adolph Gottilieb, Afro and of course Lucio Fontana.

The Rossi's desire to graphically produce the processes and contents of contemporary artists, was driven by various elements: their great respect for art, the need for adventure, their knowledge of painting and sculpture, and the ability to understand each artists distinctive style and touch. They were to become fine and couragiously innovative masters of their work in producing the works on paper.

1974 – Afro, Valeria Gramiccia and Valter Rossi. Photo by N. Lo Duca.

Between 1962 to 1983 the Rossi's continued to publish engravings. One of the arists was Burri whose work was described by Vittorio Rubiu as "ever closer to painting, almost unmistakabley so". The Rossi's used acetate, trasparent and colored plastic to return to a burnt plastic effect with variations on white while introducing the materiality of Cretti to paper by using an unconventional and elaborate method of etching and engraving.

1969 - UNESCO and the consolidation

1969/70 was a special year for the Rossis. A.i.a.p Unesco commissioned them to produce a portfolio of graphic art that would put them in close working contact with various world famous artists. It was a dream come true: working with some great artists such as Juan Miro, Alberto Burri, Alexander Calder, Victor Vasarely, Victor Pasmore, Sonia Delaunay, Louise Nevelson, Sebastian Matta, Man Ray, Max Bill and Wotruba.
For the Rossi couple the moment had arrived to make themselves known to an international audience. It was to be the start of an intimate and profitable collaboration with many of the greatest contemporary talents.
This was the time to consolidate their work: in fact they produced the "Presenze Grafiche" 95cmx95cm engravings series. The format was a completely new and unseen for graphic art at the time.
The Seventies were the years in which the Rossi's developed various engraving techniques, such as embossing, indispensable to sculptors such as Beverly Pepper, Gio and Arnaldo Pomodoro, Chillida who managed to recreate sculptural shapes and forms in their works.

1973 – Pierre Alechinsky on Sida while working, Bodrum.

In 1973 Valter and Eleonora went to Turkey on their sailing boat where they produced their first work with Pierre Alechinksy: 'Mare Nostrum'. From this moment on these master printers changed the concept of the atelier. No longer was it neccessary for the artist to go to the printer. now he could remain in situ in his own work place wherever it may be such as Bodrum (Turkey) and from there Menton (France), Palma di Majorca (Spain), Los Angeles (USA), Southampton and Montuak (Long Island, USA), Palm Beach (Florida, USA), Point Race (California USA), and the studio in New York.

1975 – The Segal with Simona at the Ara Coeli, Rome.

The possibility of being able to produce engravings of large and unusual formats attracted to the 2RC a great following amongst private collectors and museum curators along with artists such as Afro, Sam Francis, Henry Moore, Pierre Soulages, Giacomo Manzu, Nancy Graves, Arnaldo Pomodoro, George Segal, Graham Sutherland and many others. In the Seventies these artists would pass by the print shop situated in Via degli Astalli in Rome to produce their large-scale works of which the largest was created by Pierre Alechinksy measuring 200cm x 300cm.

The large format and dimension of these works became fundamental to the action of the work. The surface is tangible, ready to lend itself to tricks and trials which the artist then puts to the test in the engraving itself.
Large dimension also becomes part of playing with color. Eleonora Rossi was greatly sensitive to color, in fact both herself and Valter loved passages of tonality and color. The Rossi's loved their work and their work becamea condition of their life.

The British Artist: Pasmore,Sutherland, Moore, and Bacon.

The artist Victor Pasmore was presented to Valter Rossi by Alberto Burri for the Unesco portfolio commission in the late Sixties and continued to work with 2RC until his death in 1987. Valter remembers fondly the relationship he had with Pasmore.

Rome was a favorite stop-off for Pasmore in the Sixties between London and his home in Malta - he often returned to London to attend to his business as director of Urban Planning.

Pasmore would spend many happy brief periods in Rome producing works with the Rossi's, developing his organic shapes and bright colors tinged by Mediterranean seascapes.

1977 – Graham Sutherland with Eleonora Rossi, Mentone.

Graham Sutherland challenged the Rossi's with the aquatint problem: this solitary artist decided to share his painting quest for a trace burnt away by time. Together they worked in Sutherland’s studio in Menton, France to produce the Bees series in 1976/77 and 'Le Bestiaire' series in 1979, inspired by Apollinaire.

Henry Moore's graphic art work during the early 1980's has been clearly quoted by Giulio Carlo Argan, that noticed this sculptors capability in showing the limits of the natural horizon with a single graphic trace and the sculptural nature in the human figure, which has always been a central theme in his work. The master printers were not over-faced by the problem of trasferring plastic layouts onto a bi-dimensional surface, but instread it was a starting-point for their research of lines and color in space. Moore's enthusiasm was so great that he lent the Rossi's five large sculptures for the opening of their new print shop called Vigna Antonimiana Stamperia d'Arte in Rome situated in a new site by the Terme di Caracalla.

1978 – Valter and Eleonora Rossi in the Henry Moore's studio.

At the end of the 80's the Rossi's satisfied one of their life-long career desires: Pierre Levè at that time Director of the Marlborough Gallery in New York invited them to produce a series of prints with Francis Bacon. This British artist, as lovable as he was difficult and complex, when faced with drawing, initially failed to depart from the white sheet of paper. Bacon refused to accept graphic art as he was convinced it was an unpractical technique but went on to produce. By overlapping the copper plates Eleonora succeded in reaching a colour that Bacon had always thought impossibile in graphic art: a very specific shade of orange. This was the beginning of the realization of a series of prints that was sadly interrupted by Bacon's death.

The experience with Bacon was yet another learning curve for the Rossi's: graphic art does not need to be produced with immediacy. It is not a question of laying down an image but an emphasis on experimentation, an exchange of understanding and generosity between the artist and the printer.

New York

The Seventies were to be difficult, violent and grey years in Italy: relations with overseas artists and the political climate drove the Rossi's to New York where they opened a print shop in 1979. It was to become a new phase of prolific work for them.

Their aim was to create a stronger link with the american artists with whom they already worked, giving them an overseas reference point in order to print in Italy and at the same time create an international presence.

This period was full of different experiences and events: Pierre Alechinsky's over-refined expressionism (the first to inaugurate the press in Soho); the numerous trips to California and the mobile scaled-down print shop created by Eleonora Rossi for Sam Francis; from the Blue Jeans series by George Segal which started in 1974 to 1987 with the realization of the Portraits; Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Graves and Julian Schnabel.

1984 – Enzo Cucchi at the Vigna Antoniniana. Photo by G. Gorgoni.

The Rossi's decision to open the print shop in New York happens to be at the same time of the apparition, in the Big Apple, of a group of young Italian artists of the Transavant-guard movement lead by Achille Bonito Oliva. Two among these artists were Fracesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi. The collaboration with the Transavant-guard stated of with an interesting converation with Achille Bonito Oliva. He immediately managed to get to grips with the intrinsical concept of graphics: the relationship between the artist and the actual engraver to whom the artist delivers the outline.
Francesco Clemente's ability in the assimilation of technique distinguished him amongst other artists from the beginning. He combined the fluid lines of etching with the fine watercolour aquatint, achieving on paper, the same luminosity of his paintings.

During that period, Clemente introduced Julian Schnabel to the Rossi’s and they went on to produce a large-scale series of etchings: each work became an event, the proof of an instinct, a footprint on paper.

Recent years

When reminiscing fondly over the 2RC history Valter Rossi remembers "Each artist brought something and everybody enjoyed it". He tells enthusiastically of the open and helping attitude within their print-shop that contiunously adapted to the different needs of each artist as they came along. Today, the print shop is situated in Rome, on the Cassia road, awaiting for a new definitive and emblematic location. The work in graphic art is never-ending and with knowledge gained from the past, history and experience become reciprocal in their exchange between past and present artists.

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