Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fit to Print

I got the chance to tour Tandem Press recently, and I couldn’t have visited the artistic laboratory at a better time.

Activity bustled throughout the factory-like building, which Tandem shares with the state’s car fleet facility, on the city’s near east side.

In the organization’s offices, row upon row of framed prints lined the floor, waiting to be picked up and shipped to two major shows Tandem is participating in, the IFPDA Print Fair 2008 held October 30 through November in New York City and Ink Miami 2008, taking place December 4 through 7.

Also adding excitement was the presence of artist Judy Pfaff, an internationally known sculptor and installation artist who also creates large-scale prints—projects Tandem is known for being able to accommodate thanks to its twelve-by-fifteen-foot press and other equipment.

Pfaff, who has come to Madison several times since her first trip in 1992, was working busily on a print even though she and several of Tandem’s master printers had spent the entire weekend here in the cavernous room filled with presses. They were hurrying to finish works that would be sent to the Miami and New York shows.

Tandem employs seven full-time staff members and relies on the help of four students from UW–Madison, with which the organization is affiliated. All work extremely hard, says executive director Paula Panczenko. “I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “They are just amazing.”

But it’s precisely for this type of diligent work and collaboration that Tandem Press was intended (and named).

In 1986, UW art professor Bill Weege proposed that the art department establish a fine art press, one that would be self-supporting through the sale of prints. He wanted students to gain printmaking experience and artists to have the opportunity to experiment with the medium. Tandem opened the following year.

Panczenko says it’s no coincidence that UW–Madison’s printmaking department is now regarded as the best in the country and that its graduates go on to be leaders in printmaking, teaching and making art. “I think Tandem contributes to that,” she adds.

The organization is also proud of the artists who have come to work on etchings, lithographs, photogravure, digital prints and many other forms of printmaking. Included are David Lynch, Art Spiegelman, Gronk, Robert Stackhouse, Miriam Shapiro, Janet Fish, Robert Cottingham, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Sam Gilliam and Sam Richardson.

Next week, Tandem welcomes Nicola López, who will hold a lecture and artist reception November 14 at 5:30 and 6:30–8 p.m. She’ll be followed by Richard Bosman, Joan Snyder and Suzanne Caporael in later months.

This spring, Tandem—which curates exhibitions at the Dane County Regional Airport—will showcase a collection of works that blend science with art. It’s a theme Panczenko anticipates exploring further in the future.

And the organization is also looking forward to moving closer to the UW campus. Plans are in place to relocate to a state-of-the-art facility just east of the Kohl Center. Collaboration with the university will be simpler in the new home, but Tandem will continue building on the successes it has built.

“There’s a great history of printmakers here,” Panczenko says.

The public is welcome to visit Tandem Press Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as by appointment. For more information, call 263-3437 or visit

Images Year of the Dog #10 and Untitled #8 are by Judy Pfaff and courtesy of Tandem Press.

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