Since its opening in 1988, the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle established one of the largest public art programs in the nation. Initially, the program started with the state's Percent for the Arts program, integrating art into the building design. In 1997, the Washington State Convention Center Art Foundation was formed, and an exceptional public art collection was created, including works by Ann Gardner, Jenny Holzer, Jacob Lawrence, and Paul Horiuchi.
While visiting the Washington State Convention Center, I particularly enjoyed seeing four screenprints by Glen Alps, one of the more significant mid-twentieth century printmakers from the Pacific Northwest. In addition to being a practicing printmaker, Glen alps was also an entrepreneur and printing press builder. Alps was also an educator, teaching printmaking at the University of Washington from 1947 till 1984. While not inventing the technique, Alps coined the term Collagraphy to describe the printmaking technique in which elements are collaged to a printing matrix and printed using a combination of intaglio and relief, creating prints rich in texture and depth.
The Glen Alps press, designed to print collagraphs, is a sturdy beast, designed to be durable if not necessarily the most exacting with crude reduction and direct drive models available, as well as a motorized version. As a product of the 1960's, safety for the operator was not a concern as the press sports an exposed drive chain. I had the dubious pleasure to print on a Glen Alps in the early 2000's and experience its shortcomings firsthand.
The Glen Alps prints at the Washington State Convention Center are fine examples of American modernism in print; they are large and explore figural abstraction in the playful tradition of William Stanley Hayter's pioneering print work of the 1940's and 50's and Matisse's paper cutouts of the 1940's.