Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fine Art at Poster Mountain

While Poster Mountain is known as the place to go for poster conservation and restoration, our expertise and experience is not limited to just posters. We love working on a range of paper based art pieces. So much so that we have started a subsidiary company called Los Angeles Paper Group to cater to a wider range of fine art projects.

Many of the fine art pieces that we receive have limitations that we must work within that are not typical of the usual poster projects. The aim of this blog is to chronicle the exploits and some of the more unusual projects that we work on. One such example is a silkscreen entitled "Monica in Robe, with Motherwell" by Tom Wesselman. "Monica in Robe, with Motherwell" is quite a mouthful and so this piece has affectionately become known simply as Monica in the studio.

It is a large format silk screen about 3 1/2' by 5' that was damaged during shipping. It was rolled and had been crushed which caused creases and distortion in the paper and hairline cracks in the ink.



Pictured: Example of some of the dents in the paper.

We wanted to flatten Monica and then do some minor restoration work, but the difficulty was that some of the ink was water soluble, the reds in particular. This meant that we could not use a wet mount process because of the possibility of major ink loss.

Fortunately, John has developed a method that allows us to flatten and then use a gelatin process on the paper without soaking it in water.

Pictured: John standing with Monica with Motherwell before we began work. It has been unrolled and the distortion of the paper is easily visible. John had injured his shoulder so he was directing and taking photos during most of this process.

The first step was to humidify Monica. To do this we created a humidity chamber using our light table and a specially made plexiglass box. Then we layered damp sheets of hollytex paper with blotters so that the art did not have direct contact with the wet sheets. Once sealed the combination of water and heat from the light table allowed the paper to relax and unroll more naturally.


Pictured: Gabe and Derry wetting down the the first strata of paper and then layering others on top of it.


Pictured: Derry and Gabe unrolling Monica and placing her on top of the layers of wet paper and blotters.
Pictured: Gabe and Derry covering everything with the plexiglass box.
The humidity chamber is then sealed and left alone for several hours. The amount of time varies according to the specifications dictated by each individual piece.



Pictured: Gabe and Derry sealing the humidity chamber.
 
Pictured: Chelsea in the background with the lights off in the archive room and Monica back lit by the light table. It was such a cool shot that we had to include it.
 After a few hours Monica had reached the balance point between the paper flattening out and becoming too wet, so it was time to begin the real work.

Pictured: Monica silkscreen after several hours in the humidity chamber. The image isn't out of focus, the humidity chamber has become so foggy that it just looks like the photo is blurry!

One of the difficulties that we encountered was the size of Monica. Most pieces can be manipulated by one person with occasional help from an extra set of hands. However, Monica was large enough that we needed two people to maneuver her and many extra hands. Almost everyone in the studio helped out with this project!



Pictured: Chelsea and Aaron, with their game faces on, moving Monica from the light table onto the top of the plexiglass box that was used to carry the silkscreen from the archive room into the conservation department.
Poster Mountain's work space is divided into two sections, the front area is the office and archive room and the back is the studio space where the restoration and conservation departments are. We had to move Monica from the archive room to the back, tricky work because of the size of the paper in comparison to the doors and hallway.

Pictured: Gabe, Aaron and Derry maneuvering through the door and hallway.

Once there Monica was transferred to one of the glass tables between two sheets of paper. We did not want Monica to ever come into direct contact with any liquid, so she was manipulated between sheets of paper throughout the entire process.



Pictured: Derry and Gabe transferring Monica from the plexiglass box to a mounting table on a piece of hollytex. At this point in the process the silkscreen is damp and we have to move quickly before it dries out.

Pictured: Gabe and Derry placing a new sheet of blotter paper on top of the silkscreen before turning it over. The new dry blotter paper absorbs excess moisture and any ink that might run is drawn up into the blotter rather than staining the art.

Pictured: Derry and Gabe flipping the Monica silkscreen over so that the piece is face down on the glass table.

John's gelatin process is a method that he developed and he is the only one who uses it. It allows him to manipulate delicate or unstable pieces of work without damaging the image. 

Pictured: Derry and Gabe applying gelatin to the hollytex layer on the back of the silkscreen.

Pictured: Derry and Gabe placing a new sheet of hollytex on to the back of Monica after which another layer of gelatin was applied.

 The next step after the gelatin is applied is to temporarily mount the silkscreen to a large melamine board. The melamine board gives the paper a stable surface to adhere to while it cures.



Pictured: Derry and Gabe lifting the hollytex, silkscreen and blotter paper off the glass table and placing the silkscreen face up on an oversized melamine board.

Pictured: Gabe and Derry removing the blotter paper, which has no ink on it!
Pictured: Monica with Motherwell on the board, not totally flat yet.

Once the hollytex substrata and the silkscreen were placed on the board we added a hollytex facing to the top. This protects the image and allows the gelatin time to cure while slowing the drying time of the paper. One of the factors that we deal with is the temperature and the heat on this particular summer day was something that John had calculated for when planning this project.


Pictured: Gabe and Derry laying a clean layer of protective hollytex on top of the silkscreen.

Pictured: Derry smoothing down the hollytex and massaging the paper to help the paper relax and lay flat on the board while it cures.
After the hollytex facing was laid on top and smoothed down a sheet of mylar was temporarily put on top. This allowed us to gently remove any air bubbles without damaging and establish uniform contact between the board, layers of hollytex and the silkscreen. 

Pictured: Derry and Gabe adding a clean dry sheet of mylar to the top of the silkscreen.

Pictured: Derry and Gabe gently squeegeeing through the protective layers to remove any air bubbles. Everyone had their game faces on during the whole process! 
Once all the air bubbles had been carefully squeegeed out the mylar was removed. Then one last layer of gelatin was carefully applied to the edges of the layers of hollytex. This adhered the two sheets of hollytex to each other and to the board, ensuring that Monica would remain flat and not lift off while curing. 

Pictured: Derry carefully applying gelatine between the layers of hollytex, making sure that none got on the edges of the silkscreen.
 After this the silkscreen was left to cure for 24 hours. The silkscreen was now completely flat! The facing is removed, but the silkscreen is left on the hollytex substrate and the board while it goes through restoration.

Pictured: Gabe removing the facing.



The restoration department fixed minor ink losses and any visible damage still left after the humidity chamber and gelatin processes.

Pictured: Katie surveying Monica before she begins restoration work.
Pictured: A detail of one of the hair-line cracks with minor ink loss that were touched up by the restoration department.

Pictured: This gives a good image of the restoration department. From left to right is Gabe, Katie and Derry.

Pictured: Katie touching up a damaged area with an eraser.
 Once the restoration was complete the silkscreen was removed from the board and then from the hollytex.


Pictured: Gabe removing the hollytex and silkscreen from the melamine board using a long thin spatula.

Pictured: Derry and Gabe flipping the silkscreen thats still attached to the hollytex substrata over.

Pictured: Gently removing the hollytex from the back of the silkscreen.
 The last thing left after the hollytex was removed was to shoot an after photo!

Pictured: Gabe and Chelsea moving Monica into the black room to take the after photo.
 Voila! "Monica in Robe, with Motherwell" once again in perfect condition!

Pictured: "Monica in Robe, with Motherwell", 40.25" x 57.25" Silkscreened art by Tom Wesselman.
 It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: www.postermountain.com and www.lapapergroup.com

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