All About Prints
Microcinema // Unrated // $19.99 // January 26, 2010
Review by Casey Burchby | posted February 21, 2010
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Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

All About Prints is a compact and informative short documentary that covers the basics of printmaking across a variety of media. This program will be of interest to artists, curators, collectors, or to anyone mystified by the catchall term "print." Printmaking encompasses a wide variety of processes that use different methods, materials, and equipment to achieve a vast array of visual effects.

We begin with woodcuts - a relatively simple matter of carving an image onto one side of a wood block and covering the areas to be printed with ink. The next major print-related development used copper plates, which allowed for a number of variant processes such as engraving, etching, and aquatints. Copper plate processes use acid to burn lines into the metal, which are then filled with ink to form the basis of the printed image. Lithography and screen-printing are nominally easier and faster processes that require less sophisticated materials and equipment.

Beyond this overview of printmaking, the film takes a look at pivotal moments for the print in art history. From Dürer's mastery of woodcuts to the spread of engravings in the 17th and 18th centuries, down to Robert Rauschenberg learning to separate newsprint from newspaper using lighter fluid, we see the development of techniques that meet the evolution of subject matter that artists have addressed through their art.

Interview subjects include artists such as Kiki Smith and Will Barnet, curators past and present from the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art, collectors, and gallerists. The influence of Depression-era artists from Mexico and the United States is discussed in detail, as this was an important moment during which government work galvanized print-makers and allowed for the fast production and dissemination of their art.

Over a relatively short 54-minute running time, All About Prints effectively hits the high points of printmaking, covering about 500 years of art history without skipping over the details and nuances that make prints themselves interesting in the first place.

The DVD

The Video and Audio
Microcinema presents the feature in an enhanced 1.78:1 transfer that really shines. Shot and edited with economy and skill, the image is rock-solid, which is no surprise for an hour-long feature that has a single disc all to itself. Contrast is excellent and blacks are solid. The audio is crystal clear stereo, abetted by a pleasant original music score.

The Extras
There are no bonus features.

Final Thoughts

This program will give viewers a new appreciation for such heretofore mysterious terms such as "mezzotint" and "drypoint." All About Prints efficiently examines the interesting and somewhat unsung art of printmaking. The variety of processes and effects available to the dedicated printmaker are surprisingly vast. Recommended.



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