… “We learned from the processes and saw other possibilities.”
“Resistance and edge are the key, keeping you off balance … it’s not knowing what you’re going to do, and having to solve a new problem.”
… Such encounters [with Japanese printmakers] gave Close “a whole other notion of what dialogue really means.” His description sums it up: “You present the thing you want to do. They wrest control away from you, and they work on it. Now the project is theirs. Then you come back in and realize that you’ve got to get control again. That’s what collaboration really means.”
[line break added] The Japanese printer for the Crown Point Press project, Tadashi Toda, also gained new insights from the Americans. “As I have worked with the artists, I have realized that my understanding of woodblock printing has been completely explored and expanded, and I accept that as a gift. The artist and printer become one, and two energies are engaged to make one print.”
Close believes these encounters influenced all his future relationships with printers. “I think it made me think differently about printers from then on. While the care and feeding of the artist is always thought about, we don’t always think of the care and feeding of the printer.” He points out that this lesson has taken on new importance now that he is handicapped and depends even more on other people’s help in the execution of a print project.
Collaboration came to its greatest realization for Close in his projects with the late master printer Joseph Wilfer (1943-1995). As is often the case in printmaking, Wilfer had to cajole Close into agreeing to work with him. At first, Close outlined all sorts of likely problems as reasons for his hesitation, but Wilfer simply went away and returned with solutions. Finally, he convinced Close to try to create handmade paper editions.
[line break added] “Eventually it got to the point where he would not take no for an answer, so we just started doing some stuff,” says Close. He was so pleased with the results that he subsequently convinced his publisher, Richard Solomon of Pace Editions, to have other artists take advantage of Wilfer’s skills. Wilfer became master printer of the Spring Street Workshop for Pace Editions, and offered a wide range of printing options there.
[line break added] Close describes Wilfer as “the single greatest problem-solving mind I’ve ever worked with. He never panicked. I would always get really crazy and hysterical and nervous and Joe would remain calm.” Eventually he oversaw, or “mother henned,” all of Close’s editioned projects, even when other printers and shops were involved. He came up with “thousands of ideas … he kept things going. We learned from the processes and saw other possibilities. … That was my dialogue with Joe,” says Close.