By Lea Schwartz
Los Angeles Downtown News Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Printmaking Society celebrates its 60th anniversary with a month-long exhibit at Mixografia Press in Downtown LA.
Through Saturday, November 12, the 22nd Biennial National Print Exhibition features modern and innovative artists from across the country selected by this year’s juror, Kenturah Davis, who teaches at Occidental College.
In 1973, LAPS held its first National, just a decade after the organization was founded, held at the LA Municipal Art Gallery.
This year’s National honors mother and daughter Betye and Alison Saar, the former being an early member of LAPS and a renowned LA performer.
LAPS is an artist-run non-profit organization established in 1962 by Paul Darrow and Connor Everts. The post-war energy at this time drew artists and students studying art to the GI Bill, creating an intellectual and artistic boom.
Darrow and Everts settled in the Los Angeles area after serving in World War II. Mary Sherwood Brock, president of the 22nd National LAPS Show, said the two “were always in shows together, but they never met. They would be listed alphabetically in the catalog and would see their respective names on the poster.
After years of playing on the same circuits, the duo finally met in 1962 and quickly became friends. That same year, LAPS was born. They created LAPS with the goal of educating and popularizing the art of printmaking, creating community and education around the craft.
Meanwhile, like many early members who were either working artists or teachers, Darrow and Everts taught art, Everts worked as a traveling teacher, and Darrow taught at Scripps College in Claremont.
Everts lived in Torrance and Brock recalled that he was a “real character”. In addition to teaching, Everts was a longshoreman and had a studio in an old grocery store next to the train tracks in downtown Torrance. Meanwhile, Darrow was living in Laguna Beach, but the group had no problem driving to each other in a time when the freeways were traffic-free. They called themselves the “highway flyers”.
In the early years, printmaking was an underrated art. Many professors in the Los Angeles area responsible for teaching classes on the subject had little knowledge.
“The schools were either brand new or they had equipment that hadn’t been used in years,” Brock said.
“So equipment was sitting in corners and hallways; beautiful presses were under sheets and stuffed into garages.
Another key figure at this time was artist June Wayne, who started the imprint’s signature Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Hollywood, which housed many early LAPS workshops and exhibits. Workshops like Tamarind and Gemini GEL were collaborative spaces, different from past workshops, and encouraged the modern, avant-garde expression that would influence the direction of the Los Angeles art scene.
“Engraving put LA on the map in terms of art. … A lot of the roots of what LA is are intimately tied to our organization,” Brock said.
Wayne helped revive the art of printmaking in the United States. To learn traditional engraving, she travels to Europe and brings back printing techniques, the idea of the learning system and the art of lithography.
Other early band members included artists Ynez Johnston, Emerson Woelffer, Leonard Edmondson, Guy Maccoy, Dick Swift, Tom Fricano and Betye Saar. Early on, LAPS received support from generous benefactors: Ebria Feinblatt of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Ken Ross, who served on the Los Angeles Arts Commission; and Esther Lewis, who had a gallery and studio on two floors of a downtown office building.
LAPS emerged during the Cultural Revolution and Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and members were strongly inspired by personal and political expression. Everts has used his art for national and cultural reflection and has been described by a Los Angeles publication as “a bohemian with a cause”. In 1964, Everts was charged with obscenity in reaction to a drawing he made in response to the then-recent assassination of JFK at his exhibit, “Studies in Desperation,” at the Zora Gallery.
What began as a local post-war organization run by two artists in Los Angeles has grown into an international society with members from around the world.
LAPS has played a crucial role in shaping Los Angeles’ artistic identity and continues to do so, hosting several cutting-edge exhibitions each year. After 60 years, LAPS has thrived as an artist-run organization, dependent on community support and volunteers who run operations and events.
Giving back to the community that has allowed LAPS to grow and prosper is at the forefront of its mission. LAPS offers scholarships to three or four printmaking students each year through its Foundation Scholarship. Once students graduate, LAPS supports emerging artists with employment and learning opportunities through its extensive network. Although they no longer have the two-story studio on Spring Street, LAPS hopes to have a physical meeting space for future members.
The 22nd National Prints Exhibition
WHEN: several times until Saturday, November 12;
artist talk from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29.
WHERE: Mixography, 1419 E. Adams Boulevard, LA
COST: Visit the website for more information