Wednesday, February 13, 2013

LA Paper Group

I have mentioned before Poster Mountain's subsidiary company, LA Paper Group. LAPG was created to handle the growing fine art side of John's conservation business.  Quite a few of the very fragile and time consuming pieces that we have taken on over the last few months have been LA Paper Group projects. While it is the same team that does the conservation and restoration work for both Poster Mountain and LAPG, John has developed techniques specific to working on delicate fine art prints and drawings. We have performed conservation on original prints and drawings from Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse, to name a few.

As many of our readers and silkscreen poster collectors know most of the conservation processes we use we prefer to keep as trade secrets, however, we wanted to highlight the work that LA Paper Group has been doing over the past few years. (Last year's blog project Monica with Motherwell was an LAPG project. Click here to go to that blog).

The level of conservation and restoration depends on what the client wants. Some people are happy to do basic conservation such as tape removal and washing out the impurities and letting the age of the piece show. Others want the piece to look as close to new as possible. This includes fixing structural issues like tears and missing pieces of paper.  

Our first before and after is a Les Maitres de l'Affiches plate that had mat burn (the discoloration of the paper around the print), tape stains and a chunk missing from the top, all of which were fixed.

This was a "make ready" etching that was altered with charcoal by Matisse and has instructions for the printer above where he signed his name.   

The next 3 are sketches from Toulouse Lautrec. They were all taped to grey paper and we removed the paper and the tape from the back. These drawings are exquisite and have been some of my favorites.

 Foxing, the rusty brown age spots, found on old paper are a common sight for us. It is not precisely clear what causes foxing, whether its oxidation or a fungus. Fortunately most foxing does not affect the integrity of the paper and is usually easily treated. This Matisse print is one of the milder cases, but over time the foxing spots would have darkened.

Below is an etching by Mary Cassatt called Antoinette's Caress. This is a more extreme case of foxing, although there is probably staining from something else contributing to the poor condition of this print.  It was washed and lightened to remove the foxing and staining, although John deemed it prudent to not over do it on the chemicals given the condition of the paper so some minor staining did remain.

John has worked on a handful of Mucha prints over the years, but in the last few months we have had 5 in the studio for conservation and restoration. One of those we did a blog about (Click here to view the Mucha blog) This one is a cool piece of history because it is a newspaper advertisement, few of which survive because of the cheap quality of the paper. Most of the fine art we work on is put through John's isinglass gelatin resizing technique that allows us to temporarily mount it to hollytex and a melamine board. Because newsprint deteriorates quickly this image was paper backed to a pH balanced Japanese paper called Okawara that will help to stabilize it over the long term.

The Cezanne below, a lithograph called The Picnic, gives me chance to talk about my least favorite thing: tape. I have on numerous occasions gone on rants about tape (and glue) so I won't get into it here except to ask how anyone could live with themselves after putting tape on a Cezanne! However, we are experts at tape removal and the tears and staining were easily fixed.

Does the image below look familiar? Have you seen Renoir's Le Moulin de La Galette? This print by Renoir is called The Dance in the Country and may have been from a sketch made for that painting. It certainly is evocative of one of Renoir's most well known images. It's also an example of mat burn, the discoloration around the image where the mat came into contact with the paper.


This is a lovely example of an Icart etching, called Nude with a White Puppy, although if you ask me that's a cat.

John James Audubon is one of the most famous names in ecology and nature conservation and this print titled Common Crossbill is a credit to his powers of observation and ability to transmit what he saw to paper. The staining along the bottom was pretty bad and couldn't be completely removed from conservation alone and our advise to the client was to not perform any additional restoration to cover the staining that remained.

Paper, like the human body, is constantly aging. Impurities in the paper, since acid free paper is a pretty new concept, react with the environment around the print. Sometimes it causes foxing and sometimes it's simply the paper darkening from age over time like this Georges Braque print called Flower.

LAPG has worked on numerous Marc Chagall prints and drawings. He is one of my personal favorites and I thought this would be a nice image to put up the week of Valentines Day. It is called Les Cantique Des Cantiques, which translates to the Song of Songs. This print was washed and the paper lightened to lessen the oxidation staining around the image.

This Joan Miro print is another example of oxidation.

The first day I ever met John he put a Picasso print in my hands and asked me to tell him about it. Many of Picasso's prints are pretty out there and the style is usually very experimental. No matter how minimal the conservation work we perform I still haven't gotten over the awe of regularly seeing Picasso prints, including  this one titled Portrait d'Homme.

This print is by yet another household name, Salvador Dali and the imagery is pretty recognizable as by the artist who painted The Persistence of Memory. This print, which was washed and lightened, shows the range of Dali's artistic ability and his highly disturbing exploration of  Dante's Divine Comedy.

Many of the more modern works of art, like this Sam Francis mixed media piece, present a challenge. This particular piece was on very thin, handmade paper and was meant to be displayed folded. Conservation on this was a very scary thing, but John is a master and the piece was washed, gently flattened so as not to lose the fold  lines and then refolded.

And last, but certainly not least is this Andy Warhol screen print of Albert Einstein.  This particular piece, like many of the Warhol prints we work on, needed to have the hinging tape removed from the back before it was re-framed.

If you have any questions about the works seen here check out LA Paper Group's website at Please feel free to contact us via phone, 818.812.9406, or email at