Endgrain Editions 5: Richard Wagener
Endgrain Editions 5
Richard Wagener’s engravings have knocked us sideways from the first time we saw them in 1994, when we were preparing Endgrain: Contemporary Wood-engraving in North America. The block we chose for Endgrain, ‘Shadow of the Hawk’, remains one of our favourite engravings by any artist. Our fascination with his work is a response to the meticulous attention to detail which imbues all his engravings, combined with a ‘democracy of aesthetic’ which allows both realism and abstraction equal weight. In a Parenthesis review of Wagener’s early book with Peter Koch, Zebra Noise with a Flatted Seventh, Simon Brett said ‘No one else I know of is making such avant-garde grand opera in wood-engraved prints.’
Yet with abstraction as a vital part of his vision, Wagener is also deeply drawn to the essentials of the natural world – trees, plants, mountains, birds, reptiles, animals – and presents them utterly in and for themselves. There are very few human figures, and virtually no active ‘scenes’ with a narrative, a story to tell. His subjects are not interpreted, or used to set off something else: I can’t think of a single one of Richard’s engraving which shows more than one central subject, although there may be both representational and abstract elements in the same piece. His vision is intense, embracing, and clear.
When, more recently, he has begun to use colour, it is always in abstract compositions, as if the colour itself as the subject were taking on an immutable abstract persona – and always one colour is the subject even when it is printed against a second coloured background. When these coloured images are used in books, as they were in Peter Koch’s edition of Robert Bringhurst’s translation of the works of Parmenides, they take on the effects of illuminations rather than illustrations. They are co-equal accompaniments.
Endgrain Editions 5 continues in the larger formats of the preceding two volumes on Simon Brett and Peter Lazarov, printing 95 engravings from all periods and styles of Richard Wagener’s career. Many coloured engravings are included, and in a departure from the earlier volumes in the series, brief texts by himself and others, both commenting on and counterpointing the engravings, are printed to set off groups of images. There are two fold-out images. An elegant autobiographical introduction reveals the processes and travels through which he has arrived at his position today in the first rank of American and international engravers. As always, a specially commissioned frontispiece, a new press device, and a patterned paper have been created for the edition.
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Endgrain Editions Five: Richard Wagener is published in an edition of 80 Deluxe and 50 Regular copies.
DELUXE STATE: 80 copies. Texts printed in Joanna with Delphian for display, in various colours and black on Zerkall Cream laid, with 95 engravings printed from the wood on Zerkall White Smooth. The book is bound in quarter vermilion morocco with a skived leather spine label and a patterned paper by the artist over boards, slipcased with a folder containing a signed and numbered strike of the commissioned frontispiece for the book.
STANDARD STATE. 50 copies. As the Deluxe state, but quarter black cloth with a printed paper label and patterned paper, not slipcased.
Both states are bound by Alanna Simenson at Mad Hatter Bookbinding, Sooke, B.C.
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