The Old Print Shop

Stanley Kaplan

1925 - 2015

Stanley Kaplan was born in Brooklyn in 1925. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art, he served two years in the United States Army during WWII.  After the war he returned to school studying at Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. He taught art at Nassau Community College in New York for thirty years.  In 1978 he created Tortoise Press and self-published eight artist books. As an active artist he divided his time between wood carved murals, printmaking, and artist books.

His work is in many major museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; The Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA;  New York Public Library; Newark Public Library, NJ; and the British Museum, London, England. He has had over thirty one-artist shows and has participated in hundreds of group shows around the world. 

”Working intuitively I am fascinated by what happens accidentally. Adding one line impression to another, like riding a wave, I let myself flow with the movement. I do not visualize the complete image nor am I aware of every line being made. An image unfolds because something inside me knows where I'm going. I play like a child as my lines glide and tangle and arrive at a point that my hand, eye and mind know on another. Using a copy printer I enlarge, reduce and reverse my sketches that are then cut-up, reassembled and glued into a new amalgamation. Sometimes the finished image seems absurd on the surface but suggests a deeper truth understood on another level of consciousness.

I see the creative process as the merging of abstraction and invention. I abstract from nature, a photographic image or my imagination and invent lines, shapes, tones and colors to represent and image. For me art is a lie that tells a truth.

A photograph is only a fraction of a moment in time from a fixed point of view. If you want to know where I am, I look around me, to the left, to the right, in front and behind. I put bits and parts of these four views together and have some sense of my location. I also have conscious and unconscious associations, experienced smells and temperature that could affect my attitude about where I am. This is my mind made image of reality and it is not the same for everyone.

I am a printmaker and a bookmaker. I prefer the process of block printmaking because it suits my personality.  Procedural steps are necessary to transcribe a sketch to a wood or linoleum surface, delays immediate resolution. With on the spot intuitive judgments and hand cutting tools, I have to slowly invent the areas that will be black, white, textured, or colored. Cutting each block is an adventure into the unknown and takes on a life of its own. I'm not sure where I'm going until I get there. The limitations of the medium force me to use an economy of line and expressive shapes. The roll and pull of the brayer, inking the surface and delicate rubbing with modulating pressure requires time, patience and concentration. When I make a block print from a painting or a photograph with various tones and colors, I liken it to taking music written for an orchestra and transcribing it for a piano solo. I get the essence of the original with a new interpretation.

I like to create a second color like the harmony for a musical theme. With stencils I am able to use two or three blocks and a number of different colors. By changing the colors and the sequence of the blocks, I am able to achieve many resolutions. The print is more than a drawing transferred to a material to be reproduced. Through the process the original drawing becomes refined, changed, and strengthened.”