Edward Meneeley and the Advent of the Electrostatic Artist’s Print.

by Arthur on Tuesday, July 27, 2010

in Printing,Technique

Meneeley, Edward. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966.  (Teuscher Editions, 2).  All prints initialled and dated by the artist.  Folio number 10 from a total edition of 15. [45865]

Meneeley, Edward.  Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. (Teuscher Editions, 3). All prints initialled and dated (1967) by the artist.  Folio number 10 from a total edition of 15. [45864]

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings.  New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966.  Title page.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

In 1959, a machine called the Xerox 914 introduced electrostatic photo-mechanical document duplication to commercial users.  Photocopying—as the technique quickly became known—revolutionized the ways in which texts and images could be reproduced and circulated.  Artists were quick to take notice.  Edward Meneeley, a young painter and photographer living in New York City, was among the first to explore the photocopy as a fine-art print medium.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Creativity. A Portrait," Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

In 1964 Meneeley visited the offices of a friend at IBM and found himself fascinated by the Xerox copier his companion used to duplicate a typewritten letter.  As he relates in the catalog for a later exhibition of his electrostatic prints at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts, Meneeley was struck by the machine’s unique graphic qualities and decided to employ the medium in a series of illustrations accompanying an excerpt from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons:

Edward Meneeley: The Electrostatic Printing Process as a Legitimate Art Form.  Thoughts and Reflections on His Prints 1964-1968.  Edward Meneeley interviewed by Christopher Marigny.

Edward Meneeley: The Electrostatic Printing Process as a Legitimate Art Form. Thoughts and Reflections on His Prints 1964-1968. Edward Meneeley interviewed by Christopher Marigny.

Pleased with the outcome of his experiments, Meneeley composed a series of 10 images based on the extemporaneous assemblage of objects laid directly on the Xerox machine’s glass plate. The assemblages were captured by the machine’s imaging sensors and duplicated directly onto cotton rag paper in an edition of 50 signed and numbered prints. Together with gallerist Wayne Adams, Meneeley published the collection as Illustrations for Tender Buttons (New York City, 1965.  Teuscher Editions 1.)

The duo went on to produce two additional series of electrostatic prints, IBM Drawings (New York City, 1966, Teuscher Editions 2) and Portraits: People and Objects (New York City, 1968, Teuscher Editions 3) in an edition of 15 sets each.  In the subsequent series, Meneeley further explored the performative boundaries of extemporaneous assemblage for the copy machine, and instead of white cotton rag, he printed the compositions on a mix of silk-screened color paper stocks.  The results remain as vibrant and striking today as when they were first pulled, offering a crisp (yet still somehow ghostly—being true to the limitations of early photocopying technology)  record of the objects and image fragments Meneeley arranged on the machine’s duplicating glass.

IBM Drawings was a direct response to the “industrial chapel” Meneeley encountered at the technology company’s New York headquarters.  He explains that the prints (composed of tapes, ribbons, punch cards and other artifacts of the high-tech corporate environment) signified his attempt to “find the appropriate graffiti, so to speak…that would enable me potentially to seduce the inhabitants of this temple into having an experience quite contrary to the characteristics of that environment.”  The work was accompanied by a text Meneeley also salvaged from the organization’s technical training manuals, consisting largely of mathematical equations used in the computational process.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Print.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Accompanying text.

Edward Meneeley. IBM Drawings. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1966. Accompanying text.

Portraits: People and Objects provides a more intimate record of Meneeley’s associations at the time, including a striking portrait of Jasper Johns assembled from fragmentary photographs, a similar image of Gertrude Stein, and other more light-hearted gestures, including a “portrait” of french fries and what may be the first-ever recorded attempt to photocopy human buttocks.

Edward Meneeley. "A Portrait of Jasper Johns," Portraits: People and Objects. New York City (Teuscher Editions) 1965. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "A Portrait of Jasper Johns," Portraits: People and Objects. New York City (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Portrait for Gertrude," Portraits: People and Objects. New York City (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Portrait for Gertrude," Portraits: People and Objects. New York City (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Dangerous Foods. A Portrait fo French Fries," Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Dangerous Foods. A Portrait of French Fries," Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Bottoms Up. A Rear Portrait," Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Edward Meneeley. "Bottoms Up. A Rear Portrait," Portraits: People and Objects. New York (Teuscher Editions) 1968. Print.

Meneeley’s forward-thinking use of the emerging technology garnered attention for the work, and the portfolios were included along with several of his paintings in a one-man show at Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1971.  Today, viewed through the lens of explosive growth in scanning, printing, and duplicating technologies of all kinds, his electrostatic prints are all the more remarkable for the sense of nostalgia they elicit from the viewer.

Altogether, the Teuscher Editions portfolios comprise a fascinating link in the chain of technological appropriation by 20th-century visual artists.  They also provide a powerful testament to Meneeley’s egregiously overlooked compositional and conceptual talents, as well as his earthy sense of humor.

Edward Meneeley (artist’s website).

FAB Item I.D. # 45864 and 45865.

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