An Interview with Jeffrey Dell

We first became aware of Jeffrey Dell’s astounding screenprints at the IPCNY New Prints Autumn 2013 show and wanted to share this interview again on the occasion of Jeffrey's solo show at The Print Center in Philadelphia. His pieces are quite astounding in person given their scale and he is a very lovely fellow to boot, take a read:

When did you start printing?

I started in 1991, with a class at Hamline University studying with Leonardo Lasansky. There have been many other important instructors since then, like Rosalind Richards at Bucknell University and Jose Rodriguez at the University of New Mexico. People I’ve known in Venice at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica like Matilde Dolcetti have also been influential for me. Since you’re from Boston, I’ll mention a time that Michael Mazur helped me make an important decision to return to the States from Venice. 

For many years my prints were almost exclusively intaglio, and of that I almost only did drypoint and mezzotint. It’s direct and fast, sort of. For the last six years or so I’ve been doing nearly exclusively screen printing. One Christmas break I was simply sick of what I was doing with copper plates and wanted to play with screen for a while, and I haven’t really turned back from that yet.

What’s the hardest thing about teaching printmaking to first-timers?

That’s a tough question. I think one of the most difficult things to teach in printmaking at any level is that the best solution is not necessarily the one that is technically most complex, nor the most difficult. I think we need to help people think creatively about how to achieve results and find solutions. Sometimes that can involve solving fairly complex technical problems, but often those technical problems subsequently become the sole criteria for whether a project is valued. This is a real pitfall with printmaking, and it alienates us from the other art worlds. 

Who would you love to collaborate with?

That’s tough, but I might say Rafael Rozendaal, or Tauba Auerbach. They’re both doing things with graphics that are very fresh and not exclusive to known print styles. Another that I would have to mention is the collaborative duoSonnenzimmer in Chicago, for the same reason.

Where are some of your favorite spaces in San Marcos/Austin/San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas for contemporary art or design?

Well, in San Marcos the only real resource is Texas State University, where I teach, and it’s an amazing program with great exhibitions. We have top notch colleagues and wonderful students. In Austin, Flatbed Press is a real leader in both print and contemporary work. Slugfest Printmaking Workshop, also in Austin, has world class print shows and good personality. Canopy, a new contemporary art space in Austin, has been opened by the Big Medium people, and they’re the ones who have, over the years, started the East Austin Studio Tour and the Texas Biennial, so they’re real movers and shakers. For Austin galleries, Art Palace Gallery really changed the dialogue and has since moved to Houston. Champion Contemporary also helped raise the conversation, and Tiny Park Gallery is doing great programing. The Contemporary Austin, formerly both Arthouse at the Jones Center and the Austin Museum of Art, has a new director and has a lot of momentum and energy. The Blanton Museum of Art at UT Austin has a really amazing collection of prints, one of the best in the world. Their former director Jonathan Bober was able to acquire the print collection of Leo Steinberg, and the current director, Francesca Consagra, is doing really good programing and is collaborating well with the larger community.

Central Texas is really a great place for print, whether from the above mentioned or from the fact that the music scene is so big and it’s one of two cities to annually host Flatstock gig poster convention. That’s a different community than contemporary art, but there’s lots of cross over.