Perfectly framed


When we bought an Alex Katz Black Pond (1989) woodcut from PARKETT last year, we certainly wanted to frame it right. The piece looks incredibly simple and stunningly complex at the same time, it is a woodcut on Goya paper, 11 3/8 x 18 1/8", printed by John C. Erickson, New York. The paper is woven and it is so thin that it appears transparent. The piece is not flashy, it is printed in one color. It is not the most popular piece among the Parkett editions. I think it is still available. So how does one frame a piece so complex and so simple? We needed the help of an expert. One of the editors at Parkett made some recommendations and we decided that the best man for the job might be Yasuo Minagawa. Minagawa Art Lines is a real favorite of many artists. He is a true master of his trade. We are talking master, framing for more than 15 years now. I read somewhere that he uses Maple only and that his finishes are based on secret formulas. His framing style is one that supports the artwork, instead of overpowering it.
I got an appointment eventually and showed up months ago to present him with the Katz piece. I also had a Pottery barn frame with me, just to show a s direction in color and style. (A bit like showing a custom car maker a bicycle in order to explain the function of the wheels.)
The office was not large, but it is packed with (beautifully presented) pieces in various styles. They all seemed like gifts, because of their size and variety. On a chair in the corner was Minagawa’s dog, one of William Wegman’s puppies.
The master was quick and professional. He knew the Alex Katz piece, as he must have framed many of them. He immediately pulled out a wooden corner out of a drawer and explained to me what he is going to do to make it look the way it should. I had a sly different idea however, pulled out the pottery barn frame and explained that I would like some sort of dark wood for the piece. He laughed at me, as if I just challenged him for a wizard match using a plastic ring and told me that he did not use cheap stained wood. He pulled out a darker corner with a quite beautiful texture and offered use it for the piece. I asked about the matting, and I should not have had. There would be no matting on the piece, he decided. I hoped I could argue, but he explained to me the nature of this particular paper, and how it would never work with a mat. (Silly me.) He explained exactly how he would hinge it, so it would float freely and be able to breathe pick up moisture from the air and then to release it without getting out of shape. The piece is alive and it can only be handled in certain ways. I was learning. We were done, I felt that I was supposed to leave.
I did not want to leave, because I had one more little question. I had made an ink version of one of the camera lucida lilies. I actually made it into a drawing that just sly touches a second pane of shikishi paper. A tiny diptych, completely off center. I wanted to know how Minagawa would frame such a piece, so I could maybe give more educated instructions to a framer. I did not really think I could frame the piece with him.
Minagawa seemed to love the drawing. He liked the paper, he liked the flowers, he smiled in a more friendly way for the first time. I was really proud now, announced that I was the draftsman. I asked how he would frame it. He pulled a completely different piece of wood out of a different drawer and explained to me exactly how the piece should be framed. I was amazed. It sounded all like a really good idea. He then gave me an offer that was just perfect, and I decided to have the drawing framed by him. We spoke a bit about the way I came to the drawing. I told the story of the camera lucida, how I got it, how it changed the way I see things sometimes. We spoke about inks and that I should use fast inks. He showed me his color inks which he brought from Japan. He told me of a shop in Tokyo that has the colored inks I might want to use. A few seconds later I knew that it was time for me to leave again. I said good bye to my little drawing that was put on top of the Alex Katz print and next to a huge package that just said A. Warhol. I left happy.
Today was finally the day to pick up the pieces. We had to move several heavy packages that said G. Crewdson on them until we got to two neatly packed brown objects. The framing is stunning. The job is fantastic, I did not expect the pieces to look this great. The frames are much deeper than I had anticipated and so the Katz print and my drawings have their own little rooms behind glass, with just the right amount of space around them. The woodwork looks a little superhuman. It is perfect. I wish I could show what the pieces look like, but I will need to take pictures first. I am very happy.
I had brought my camera lucida this time and we drew some paper cups.
This time I really had to leave, but it felt a tiny bit better than the first time. I went to take a brief look at the Gregory Crewdson show, now with the knowledge that all these perfect frames were by Minagawa Art Lines. I looked at the wrapped two frames under my arm. I could not see the name on the bigger one, because it was covered, but the smaller one had clearly the same writing as on all of the packages in the Art Lines studio. My little package said W. Riedel. I felt a tiny bit more special. It is OK, isn’t it?


It is... very certainly definitely ok,
especially when you encounter one that is such an inspiration for you.

Oh boy, reading this whole story with a more clear head, I feel really silly. Shopping in the same candy store as the queen, certainly does not make me a queen. I am certainly not full of myself, this is what i mean.
The way I wrote the story, it alsmost seems as if I were comparing myself to some names I saw in the office there. Pretty pathetic... I will need to meditate.
The work is quite exceptional though. From now on, I will frame my work there. (I wish.)

no no worries, let me rescue you and put your mind to ease, you were very humble indeed.

I guess I just need to work a little harder, then all this insecurity will eventually go away.

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This page contains a single entry by Witold published on June 13, 2002 11:21 PM.

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