David Kelso

Made in California Press
December 2, 2004 — January 22, 2005

Working exclusively as an intaglio printmaker, David Kelso has been an outspoken advocate of print as a medium for original expression.  A professional printer since 1971, he founded his Oakland intaglio workshop, made in California, in 1980 to publish editions by other artists as well as continue producing his own prints.

Abstract gestural elements had come to dominate his work after assisting Richard Diebenkorn on a print project in 1978, and ongoing work with Frank Lobdell has further focused Kelso's interest in line, scale, and personal symbolism.  He has used the same copper plates for each of his editions since 1981, subtractively reworking them through scraping and burnishing, while simultaneously introducing new elements.

At some point in this process, past imagery gives way to something new and entirely unforseen.  This working method--similar to reworking the ghost impression of a monotype--underlines Kelso's continuing interest in the sequential nature of artmaking.  His extensive use of brushstroke in sugarlift, white ground, and spit-bite aquatint, along with complex color overprintings, blends a painter's sensibility with a printer'stechnical knowledge, allowing him to think directly in the print medium.  By Kelso's measure, such direct thinking distinguishes an original multiple from a reproduction far more accurately than any nuanced technical definition: "Rather than thinking of printmaking as a reproductive medium for translating ideas from one medium to another, I approach it in the same spirit of original expression as I'd approach a painting, drawing, or any other primary medium."

Kelso sees printing and publishing other artists' work as an ongoing education that feeds 

his own art: "It's difficult to balance the demands of both activities, but that difficulty is doubly justified: Not only do my collaborations with other artists educate me, but producing my own work also makes me a better collaborator by giving me insights into (and sympathy for) the difficulties other artists confront in making prints."

"Over the years, I've concentrated on developing close working relationships with local artists.  While most publishers generally invite artists for a limited residency of intensive work, I've adopted a more sustained, informal approach to proofing.  Work on any given project may continue--on and off--over months, even years, and the spaces between proofing sessions tend to take on greater importance. Evolving imagery from the artist's primary work can play off the prints, and vice versa.  Drawings, paintings, and prints then become integral elements in a body of work, and prints produced in this way offer far more valuable insights into artmaking than prints which simply distill signature style or imagery."