‘Unprinting’ Color Prints: Graphic Trial 2007

A visit to this exhibition feels like a cross between an art-school senior thesis presentation and a walk-through technical manual for the making of Pop Art.

poster for Graphic Trial 2007

Graphic Trial 2007

at P&P Gallery
in the Ichigaya, Kagurazaka area
This event has ended - (2007-04-24 - 2007-07-08)

In Reviews by Rebecca Milner 2007-07-01

Naomi Hirabayashi

Color, particularly how it can be manipulated through the printing process, is the focus of the Graphic Trial Collection 2007, which features the experimentations of four award-winning Japanese graphic designers, Katsuhiko Shibuya, Kazunori Hattori, Naomi Hirabayashi, and Masahiro Aoyagi.

Each of the four designers has chosen a concept to explore over three months in collaboration with a printing director. The projects are presented as trials that build on themselves, displayed through visual representations, technical explanations, and diagrams, and culminating in five final posters.

The official theme of this collection, the second Graphic Trial, is offset printing. Offset is the most common commercial printing process, wherein water and then ink are applied to image plates (the water to the non-image area and thus the ink, which is repelled by water, to the image area). The image plates are then transferred to rubber blankets that print the image onto paper. Standard color processing is made up of four layers of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink printed as tiny dots, which the brain interprets as a cohesive color image. If you are considering visiting this exhibition, however, you probably already knew that.

Katsuhiko Shibuya

The Graphic Trial Collection does appeal to a particular audience: ardent fans of posters, prints, and magazines, or better yet, those who have an interest in making their own. While the finished projects are neat to look at, the truly engaging part of the exhibition is watching the ideas unfold during the “trials” that lead up to the final displays. If you want to know about the technical aspect of print making, and like the idea of graphic designers leaving their ergonomic swivel chairs to get their hands dirty in the printing house, then you’ll want to see this collection.

The exhibition lays out the mechanics of how different effects can be created through tweaking the application of ink. Of the four, Shibuya’s subtly impressive trials on “expanding white,” stand out, perhaps because in contrast to the others he works with an absence of color. He uses natural colored paper to show off the effects of layering white ink upon white and using printing blocks of varying hardness, both of which create subtle difference in opacity and contrast. Working in monochrome, he chooses faces and flowers among his subjects to demonstrate which printing techniques enhance the shades of white appearing in each.

Both Hattori and Aoyagi, on the other hand work exclusively in CMYK. In “layered lines of CMYK,” Kazunori experiments with bands of colors in place of the traditional dots, applying them first to two-tone and four-tone color charts and then in varying widths to an image of a tricolor flag. Unlike dots, the colored lines remain independent except when overlapping, allowing the eye to take in the individual components of complex colors.

Aoyagi experiments with “shapes and colors composed by layering,” by adding, subtracting, and substituting layers of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to a photo of a chameleon (natch), which through repeated manipulation loses its photographic quality and becomes increasingly graphic.

Kazunori HattoriMasahiro Aoyagi

Hirobayashi’s “Pop-art by off-set,” may be the least focused but it is also the most playful, and by no means less engaging. She shows how varying ink choices (such as substituting pastels, metallics or fluorescents for the standard CMYK colors), or adjusting the size and angle of the screen through which the ink is applied can create hazy, nostalgic images or bright kitschy ones. She also demonstrates how well-placed mistakes, such as shifting a single color plate only slightly, can create a retro feel, referencing the time before scanners and computers assured us consistency and accuracy. The result is, as the title suggests, pure pop.

The exhibit itself is well laid out, with each of the four designers occupying a corner of the airy gallery space. However, the explanations are in Japanese only and the diagrams, unfortunately, don’t always speak for themselves. On the other hand, the staff are on hand and helpful; when they were unable to answer one of our questions, they immediately called for backup.

If any of this makes you want to learn more about printing, the P&P Gallery is actually part of the Printing Museum of Tokyo. The museum, which occupies the basement of the building, is a collection of interactive, multimedia displays that trace the history of printing and is a perfect example of one of Tokyo’s eccentric, niche museums.

Rebecca Milner

Rebecca Milner. Born in San Diego, California in 1980, Rebecca studied modern English, French, and Spanish literature at Stanford University. She now works as a freelance fashion writer and trend scout, as well as doing occasional work as an interpreter, English teacher, and bar hostess. Happily infatuated with the mundane, she relishes making coffee, reading the newspaper, grocery shopping, and riding her bicycle. She is obsessed with all things urban, is an ambitious collector of magazines, makes terrible pottery, prefers graffiti to commissioned sculptures, has an unusual affinity for typefaces, and totally digs performance art. » See other writings

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