Next we'll move on to Frank Stella. His name rings a bell, right? Right? Big, bold abstract prints. Expressionistic scribbles. Then we'll talk about Brice Marden, who . . . what? Never heard of him? He's an abstract minimalist. Very Zen.
And finally, we'll wrap things up with Tony Fitzpatrick. You don't know about him, either? Uh-oh. We'd better start over.
Or better yet, check out "New Narrative," an exhibition of these artists' printmaking styles on display now at the Salt Lake Art Center. In Salt Lake City through March 17, this touring show combines four series of works by four artists - New Yorkers Warhol, Stella and Marden, plus Fitzpatrick, who's from Chicago - who pushed the boundaries of ink, color, paper and pressure.
"We normally wouldn't have put these four people together. The issues they're dealing with are all very different," says center director Ric Collier. Nevertheless, Collier likes the connections that can surface when works by diverse artists are shown in the same space.
All the works in the show were created in the late 20th century, when printmaking emerged as a relevant and commercially popular artistic medium. Because artists could print multiple copies of a work, it became easy to produce a series of prints as an edition. "New Narratives" showcases four such series - each containing prints that stand alone and also serve as part of a thematically linked sequence.
Warhol, the show's most famous (and only dead) artist, is represented by "Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century," a commissioned suite of silkscreen prints completed in 1980 toward the end of his career. Like his familiar images of Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley, these portraits were made by transferring black-and-white photos to silkscreen, tinting them with bright colors and tracing over them with crayon.
But for the most part ,these prints aren't of pop celebrities but of artistic, intellectual or political giants: Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis and the Marx Brothers. It's a strange and amusing conceit: Freud as pop icon!
Frank Stella took a different creative approach than Warhol, although critic Peter Schjeldahl once wrote that both artists were similar for pursuing "a big, splashy stylistic idea brought off in a big, splashy completely self-confident manner." The show contains a series of 12 Stella prints, done between 1982 and 1984 and inspired by illustrations of a Yiddish folk song, "Had Gadya," about a goat that was eaten by a cat that was bitten by a dog, and so on.
Viewers will be hard-pressed to find any goats or dogs in Stella's works, made from a process that combines lithographing, silkscreening and linoleum block printing. The large chaotic prints are explosions of colors, squiggles and unrecognizable shapes, although some contain what appear to be recurring cones and Greek columns. Why? Nobody knows for sure.
Within the realm of abstract art, the stylistic opposite of Stella's colorful, expressionistic work might be Brice Marden's precise black-and-white minimalism. Marden's eight etchings are formal, gridlike patterns of squares and rectangles - there's not a curving line in the bunch.
Marden produced all eight works over the course of 10 days in 1971 and approached each one individually, without trying to create a conceptually linked suite. Viewed in a sequence left to right, however, they progress from light to dark, from spare to dense. The overall effect is calming, meditative.
Finally, we come to Fitzpatrick's series of 10 colored etchings, which rival Warhol's for the most accessible in the show. Created in 1998 by the self-taught artist, they use playing cards, dice and other symbols to explore themes of luck, chance and superstition. The prints are small - only slightly bigger than actual playing cards - and hand-detailed in a folk-art style with such symbols of luck as horsehoes and wishbones.
"What is commonly shared by Warhol, Stella, Marden and Fitzpatrick, who are otherwise very diverse in their approaches to art, is how a series of prints suggests narrative by their sequential order," writes curator Jim Edwards in an essay about the show.
So yes, all the series tell a story of sorts that changes depending on where you start. And all four series can be appreciated, or puzzled over, for different reasons. You'll be challenged, but you probably won't be bored.
* "NEW NARRATIVE: WARHOL, STELLA, MARDEN, FITZPATRICK," runs through March 17 at the Salt Lake Art Center, 20 S. West Temple. A public reception is Friday, 6 to 9 p.m., with a presentation by curators Jim Edwards and Jay Heuman at 7. For information, call 801-328-4201 or visit http://www.slartcenter.org.