'88 Days' is a set of 88 blind-embossed lift-ground etchings,
made during Alex Calinescu’s time as Artist in Residence at The
Josef & Anni Albers Foundation in Connecticut in 2006.
The idea was very simple; at the end of each working day Calinescu would draw or paint one plate, the series becoming a physical representation of her time at the Foundation.
The 88 plates were shipped back to Cambridge, where they were editioned by Calinescu and the Master Printmaker, Kip Gresham, at the Print Studio in Cambridge.
Unexpectedly, for personal reasons, it took nearly three years to complete the project.
In 2019 Alex Calinescu was invited to speak about the journey of '88 Days' during a Print Symposium at the Howard Theatre, Downing College Cambridge. The talk was recorded by the Heong Gallery, and is available to view on YouTube (see link below).
'88 Days' is presented as a boxed set of 88 blind-embossed lift-ground etchings.
Published by The Artist as an edition of 15,
with 3 artist’s proof sets, 2 archive copies and 1 printer’s proof.
Plate size 18 x 14.5cm, paper size 37 x 29cm, 2006.
Printed on white Moulin du Gu, waterleaf, 270gsm
Printed by Master Printmaker Kip Gresham and Alex Calinescu at The Print Studio, Cambridge.
The sun rises in the morning and makes its journey across the sky and sets in the evening. From this we get a sense of time, pattern and quantity. It's a daily ritual but it is a given rather than one that we choose. Alex took the day and its potential as her base unit and then imposed her own ritual on it. '88 Days' is a diary of the passing days and is as much about the nature of time as it is about related graphic statements.
When she came to me with the plates that she had made at The Albers Foundation I was struck by the scale of the enterprise, the physicality of the individual units, the uniqueness of each statement and the sense that this was a plan seen through to a natural conclusion.
The 88 plates had a strong sense of an embedded ritual about them, a large group of particular statements on metal each of which had been drawn in a singular way but then etched with an acid of a fixed strength for a set time. They were all different but shared a common vocabulary. They all had a clearly identifiable hand and used the same materials yet, somehow, each one paraded its individuality with grace and assurance.
I first saw the plates after they had been etched but still with the heavy layer of wax ground and subsequent layers of stop out varnish. It was a very big and heavy pile of metal, dark brown and inscrutable.
The first job was to strip the ground and varnish from the plates so that the bright metal revealed itself. At this moment the drawings with their bite into the surface and their subtle edges became evident and I began to understand the balance between the positive and negative parts of each image, the intervals and the sense of speed and stasis.
All the plates had sharp edges so they needed filing, scraping and burnishing back to a smooth tapered finish so that the paper would not tear under the great printing pressure. The hard work involved was strangely at odds with the lightness and ease of the finished pieces.
We experimented with several papers and eventually identified Moulin du Gue as the one to be used. It is a moderately textured and un-sized sheet from the Arches mill, made from cotton and linen fibres. It has two special qualities, firstly it is cloudy in appearance and secondly, when embossed, the surface changes dramatically from a textured to a very smooth one. This allowed Alex to isolate the image on the sheet. The business of getting the right level of emboss took some experimentation but, once achieved, declared itself to be right.
The running of the plates, the drying of the prints and the tearing back to size was a big operation in which every action had to be repeated 88 times. Throughout all this Alex's determination and vision remained constant. We talked a lot, grew to understand each other's imperative and took real pleasure in the accumulating piles of creativity.
It is always a privilege to collaborate in the making of prints, one draws very close to the mind of the artist and there is an often unspoken exchange of just what it is to be driven to make new things and use a visual language to say the otherwise unsayable. '88 Days' took me deep into that realm and I carry very happy memories of the whole project.
Kip Gresham, Master Printmaker, July 2021