The Zone for Art Innovation

USF’s Graphicstudio provides a home to the world’s leading contemporary artists to produce groundbreaking work.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2011) – This summer was all about jetting to London, Venice, San Francisco and Tokyo for celebrated New York and London-based artist Christian Marclay. In between, some creative time was spent in Tampa.


At the University of South Florida’s Graphicstudio.


Christian Marclay: Return Engagements


One of “The 10 Most Important Artists of Today.”


Christian Marclay has developed several projects with Graphicstudio over the last six years and values Graphicstudio for its collaborative studio environment.


The Swiss-American artist explores the relationship between visual and sonic phenomena through his work in collage, sculpture, installation, photography, video, performance and printmaking.


Read more about Marclay

Tampa is a destination on Marclay’s and many an artist’s and art lover’s itinerary because Graphicstudio is a creative oasis where visiting artists come to work under the best possible conditions – with the most supportive of allies at their disposal.


Marclay’s repeated trips to Tampa illustrate exactly why Graphicstudio has earned a reputation for being such a desirable studio facility for over 150 leading contemporary artists from all over the world.


This experiment in mixing art and education is more than a studio or print shop. And artists can’t just drop in. A confluence of conditions and circumstances must exist before an artist – up-and-coming or established – is invited to work with Graphicstudio’s team of art professionals. It’s what Graphicstudio Director Margaret Miller calls an “organic process.”


Foremost, there must be a desire to integrate students and the community in the creative process. Graphicstudio not only produces museum-quality limited edition prints and sculpture multiples but also opportunities for students to observe and train for professional careers in the arts and offers lectures, colloquia, seminars, catalogues, blogs and videos for everyone.


In addition, Graphicstudio’s publications in and of themselves – more than 1500 limited edition fine art works produced since 1968 – constitute a modern art treasure trove featuring some of the world’s most collectible artworks. Representative prints and sculptures produced at the studio are placed in the USF Contemporary Art Museum and are available for study by students and community visitors.  The prints and sculpture editions are also for sale and art collectors look forward to the annual benefit sale, which takes place each October. This year it’s Friday, Oct. 14 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Also, a subscription program supports the research and educational programs and allows participants to collect significant pieces.  


What makes all of this so unique is that the total university environment is available for consultation and collaboration to support Graphicstudio’s research and assist with development of innovative techniques and processes for the creation of the artworks.


Many new processes and innovative treatments of traditional methods have been developed here – in answer to artists’ needs. In fact, some of the most recognized names in the art world have thrown many an interesting challenge at Graphicstudio’s renowned artisans – with stellar results.


Last year, Marclay, one of Graphicstudio’s most successful current collaborative relationships, (see sidebar), wanted to visualize a sound in the groove of a record. Graphicstudio found a way to do it with the help of USF Health and a microscopic surgery camera. Vik Muniz needed love bugs for one of his projects. Keith Edmier wanted to cast hearts in basalt and needed to see and examine human hearts and have an MRI of his own heart. Researchers and faculty from various disciplines have assisted with all of these needs.


At times new techniques or retooling of traditional techniques have been developed for specific projects. “Waxtype,” a method of printing encaustic waxes, was developed for Roy Lichtenstein. Artists Jim Dine, Sandro Chia and Philip Pearlstein have used “heliorelief” – another Graphicstudio invention – using photographically-generated stencils and sandblasting to achieve extremely fine detail for woodcuts. Graphicstudio’s former Research Director Deli Sacilotto’s expertise expanded the 19th century photogravure process to allow for the production of unusually large hand-printed images and four-color separations. This method has been used by Robert Mapplethorpe, Chuck Close, Ed Ruscha, Muniz and others to explore new concepts and new approaches to their work.


Most recently a digital process was created to direct the water jet cutting of polished stainless steel for the artist Teresita Fernandez and the traditional process of pouring bronze with a unique patina was used to create a large scale figurative work by the artist Diana Al-Hadid.


Graphicstudio is part of the Institute for Research in Art in the College of The Arts along with the Contemporary Art Museum and the Public Art Program. Miller watches over the whole operation with justifiable pride and a well-honed sensibility for what will serve the university, its students, the community and connect with the larger art-world.


“We have established an outstanding reputation in the art world, one that makes it clear that when it comes to the production and publication of new art by leading artists, this is one of the premier places in the world to come to,” Miller said. “But there also has to be a willingness to spend time with our students and give lectures. And given what I’ve seen over the years, the artists are as energized by this part of their stints with us as the actual act of creating their artworks.


“In the final analysis, what makes Graphicstudio so exceptional is the staff,” said Miller. “Each of our research associates is uniquely qualified and willing to find new techniques and processes as needed. They stay current with trends in the art world, research techniques used worldwide, adopting and adapting, collaborating and assisting to gain even greater expertise. And they’re all very nurturing, patient and willing to work as long as it takes to serve the project.”


Research Associate Sarah Howard added, “We do a lot of experimentation without constraints because our primary interest is to advance artists’ practice and give them the freedom to try things out they couldn’t create in any other environment. We can take them in new directions as easily as they can take us. Not everything works. An artist may abandon something that another artist may end up finding useful down the road. We’re willing to try nearly anything.”


Noel Smith, Graphicstudio’s curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art and Education, has worked with USF educators such as USF’s Barbara Cruz a professor of social science education and local grade school teachers to develop lesson plans related to Graphicstudio artists such as Havana based Carlos Garaicoa.  As a university-based atelier, learning is as important as creating.


“For the students who come here – our college students and high school students from the community – engaging with these artists and the production staff allows them to find out how artists come up with their ideas, learn about the roots of the creative process and also how to make a living at it,” said Smith.


Recently, the atelier’s printers, Tom Pruitt and Tim Baker were invited to China where they worked with students in Beijing. Closer to home, they show visitors who request guided tours how a print production facility functions by offering demonstrations of the printing processes. 


“Graphicstudio is certainly the most significant atelier on any college campus in this country,” Miller said. “USF’s top administrators have understood the value of this unique research program in the arts and have provided tremendous support since 1968. The more we excel, the more we enhance the caliber of the artists we can attract.”


In synch with USF’s global perspective, exhibitions and workshops throughout the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Brazil, England, Italy, France and most recently China have spread the word about Graphicstudio’s accomplishments to a diverse audience. 


Work is already under way in preparation for a major new exhibition in 2014 that will take over the entire Tampa Museum with an extensive show of Graphicstudio publications and projects. The title is Uncommon Practice: USF Graphicstudio and will be curated by USF alumnus and independent curator Jade Dellinger.

“We expect to change perceptions in this community with this exhibition,” said Miller. “We have dazzling evidence of Tampa’s bona fides as a world-class art capital.”


Graphicstudio’s editions can be found among important collections and at leading museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New York Public Library and the Museum of Contemporary Art  Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO) in Geneva.


The artists create in collaboration with research faculty. Their works are shown the world over. USF’s students observe, interact and learn in an incomparable setting perched at the top of the field. Located off of Alumni Drive next to Research Park it’s easy to get to and worth a visit.


“We encourage everyone to check our website often to learn what artists are working in residence, their world wide reception and of upcoming exhibitions and lectures,” said Miller. “There’s always something new and beautiful to experience here.”


Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.