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Inking an Internship
NYPOP led to key opportunities for emerging printmakers

—Faye S. Wolfe

NYPOP
At Axelle Fine Arts Editions in Brooklyn, master printer Luther Davis (left) shows the ropes to NYPOP alums: employee Mikael Petraccia ’02G (center) and intern Phil Hendrickson, who is working toward his MFA (right).
SLEEPING ON YOUR BROTHER-IN-LAW'S COUCH, commuting between Jersey and Brooklyn, seeing your wife only on weekends—these are the kinds of sacrifices one makes for art. Phil Hendrickson, now a second-year MFA candidate in printmaking, spent his summer in the city as an intern at Axelle Fine Arts Editions. Axelle is a fast-growing studio that does both commercial work, such as art posters, and limited-edition art prints. Its parent company is a fine-art publisher with galleries in Soho, Boston, San Francisco, and New Orleans. ( http://www.axelle.com/ )

Wanting to “immerse myself in printmaking,” says Hendrickson, he was prompted to ask about an internship after seeing Axelle during an NYPOP tour; if it hadn’t been for the visit, he says, “the whole internship idea would never have occurred to me.” Axelle is an NYPOP stop because UMass Amherst alumnus Mikael Petraccia ’02G is an employee. Unlike many student interns, Hendrickson was paid ($60 a day), but it’s really the experience that counts—and having access to the equipment for his own projects.

The shop at 312 Atlantic Avenue where Hendrickson got hands-on experience with intaglio, silk-screening, etching, hot-stamping, and other processes is nearly as noisy, bustling, and heavily trafficked as the major Brooklyn thoroughfare beyond the windows. In a bright, immaculate room, the Axelle crew scoots around, running and stopping the presses, sliding prints into tall drying racks, and ferrying materials from one corner to the other. On any given day they might be working on several jobs at once, with print runs numbering in the hundreds, for a customer base that includes clients in Japan, France, and Spain. Master Printer/Director Luther Davis and most of his crew are artists themselves, so they especially enjoy publishing projects for such prestigious galleries as Pace, Leo Koenig, EXIT ART, and Editions Farbush, as well as museums, including the Whitney. Working with artists like Robert Indiana, Mimi Gross, and Matthew Barney, Axelle has taken on exacting, creative work. Axelle printed Steven D. Gagnon’s “American Icon,” for instance, on gold-leaf linen.
Aside from its range of projects, Axelle is also a great place for interning because it bridges current and traditional printing methods. Among its machines are a mighty cast-iron embosser capable of creating delicate emblems; an old Seybold paper cutter weighing 8,500 pounds; a large-format scanner used for digitizing slides, transparencies, and original artwork; and a large-format printer that reproduces images sent via e-mail. For silk screening, a process patented in 1907, the studio uses up-to-the-minute, light-activated, nontoxic inks.

The first NYPOP student to be an Axelle intern, Hendrickson is right at home around equipment. The grandson of a blacksmith, the son of a mechanic and construction worker, he builds on this familiarity with gears, bolts, and wire in creating his own art. From objects cadged from thrift shops and junk piles, Hendrickson makes assemblages, like “Androgenator,” which vaguely resembles a meteorological instrument. Accompanying “documentation” presents a fictitious history or mythology of the objects. A drawing of Androgenator, for example, lists components that include a pendulum and an “epicenal tap.” A print that appears to be an ad for the faux machine bears the slogan “Generate an Ideal State!” Not surprisingly, Hendrickson cites Dada artist Marcel Duchamp as an influence.

Attracted to UMass Amherst because of NYPOP, Hendrickson has participated in the program twice. It’s only whetted his appetite for more; before heading to Axelle, he told us that after grad school, “I would love to come and live and work in New York.” Having spent a steamy summer there, he may feel differently. Yet, judging by the determination of other NYPOP alums, it’s more likely that he’ll be scouting up a city sublet soon.


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If You Can Make it There: more images

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Inking an Internship

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