Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How Do You Pronounce Sarsaparilla?

This Sarsparilla poster was deemed a "shred" by its owner, but he sent it to us anyway hoping that we would be able to do something with it.

We love projects like this poster because it gives everyone a chance to flex their conservation and restoration muscles.We've seen and fixed posters in worse shape, but any chance to fix a piece with large areas missing and old, brittle paper is a challenge that we welcome.

The poster was linen backed first to stabilize the original paper and give our restoration artists a solid foundation on which to build.

The client opted to do full restoration, so we had to add paper onto the entire left side of the poster.

Although we have boxes of "throw away" vintage posters that we find or people give us, but it is rare to large sections of unprinted poster paper.  So for this patch job we made do with a several large patches instead of one long one. 

Seeing this, I do have to wonder what on earth is scrofula?! (It's an old name for tuberculosis, as it turns out!)
After prep comes masking and airbrushing. This is often one of the more dramatic stages of restoration. And one of the scariest for our clients to see, both in person and in pictures, because it often looks like we have covered their work in paint. To be fair, if we are airbrushing it, we have in fact covered certain areas in paint. But the hardest step to see is masking, which protects the areas of the poster that aren't going to be airbrushed. So, don't be alarmed by this next photo!

This is the only photo I managed to get, it was a busy day! However, it does demonstrate exactly why airbrushing is intimidating. The green background has been evenly sprayed over that area and the letters, including those that needed to be added back in, have been covered with acetate to protect them. Once the masking is removed, we have a seamless background color and a guide for adding the text back in.

After a few more rounds with the airbrush, the poster goes to detail in order to fix any small issues and add the final flourishes. And this was the end result:

The client was so thrilled with the finished piece that he emailed us to tell us this: " Hi. I received the sign and to say I'm overwhelmed is an understatement. Even knowing your reputation didn't prepare me for the job you did on that "shred" I sent you. You are truly highly skilled artisans. Some people I have shown it to even doubt its authenticity because of its pristine appearance and are convinced it is a reproduction. Please reassure me that the original piece I sent you is in there somewhere so I can confidently state that it is a restored original and not completely fabricated. I am sure I will do business with you wonderful people again."

Thank you so much for the support! And as you can see, while we did quite a lot of work on this old sign, most of the original was left to shine through with a little help from our restoration work!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poking the Warhol Dragon

The name of this post comes from a conversation with John last year about  a very interesting Warhol print on a paper bag. In order to flatten the bag we were going to need to take it apart. So, as John and I were talking about how he was going to accomplish this, the possibility of having to completely wet the piece on the capillary table came up. John's very visceral response to that was, "Let's not poke that dragon in the face unless we have to." While we did not end up having to wash that particular piece, as it turns out we finally got a Warhol piece that we did wash.

The print in question is one of five unique  screen prints of John Gotti done by Warhol in 1986. They are currently on display at the Revolver Gallery in Beverly Hills, which is the largest private collection of Warhol art works.

John Gotti was one of the most infamous faces of the mafia and Warhol created these images while he was standing trial. Revolver Gallery writes, "John “Teflon Don” Gotti was a famous mobster from the Gambino family. Charged with murder, loansharking, racketeering, obstruction of justice, illegal gambling, tax evasion and more, he was, and is, the most infamous member of the Mafia. Andy Warhol had been known for his portraits at the time and caught the attention of Time Magazine in 1986, which was dedicating a cover to Gotti in their “Mafia on Trial” September issue. It was during this time that Gotti had been arrested and was standing trial for racketeering, for which he was acquitted. Six years later, he was charged for murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Warhol was known for creating portraits of the beautiful and glamorous, but when Time Magazine commissioned him to make this cover, he had a new type of subject to add to his portfolio. Although Gotti did not fit into Warhol’s usual movie star-musician-artist circle, he did possess some of the attributes that Warhol loved about celebrity life. Gotti was known as “Dapper Don” because of his personality in front of news cameras and his expensive clothing. He was glamorous in his own right, and a celebrity in his crime driven world. The public knew John Gotti’s name.

Andy Warhol was able to take this monster of a man and turn his image into a colorful and contemporary piece of artwork. He chose to illustrate Gotti based off of a publicity photo where he is in a nicely tailored suit with an intimidating demeanor about him. Much like his Mick Jagger portraits, Warhol applied collaged pieces of paper in the background as well as a combination of photographic imagery and hand-drawn lines. The five unique prints are all on white backgrounds as he utilized the colored paper to create the color schemes. Once again geometry and intentionality comes into play with this work, as Warhol carefully placed the collaged pieces and the lines to create a well-balanced, nicely composed piece of art. He created multiple versions of this portrait, and Time chose the one that they felt best depicted the man in their article, John Gotti." - from Revolver Gallery's website

The print that needed some TLC has three pieces of silkscreened paper collaged together, over which Warhol added several more layers of silkscreening. One of the pieces (the lighter green on the right side) was damaged with several tears and a missing chunk out of it (right by Gotti's lapel). 

The paper was glued down using rubber cement, which does not age well. But John was able to remove it by sliding one of his knives between the layers of paper and slicing the top paper away from the bottom. (Don't worry, no prints were harmed in the making of this blog, just glue)

This ladies and gentleman, is what 30 year old rubber cement looks like! Not a pretty picture.

And just to be contentious (because it wouldn't be a Warhol piece if it weren't) one of the corners had a crease in it which tore completely during the removal process.

Before starting anything John had tested all of the inks used for this print and none of them were water soluble (Although that did not mean John wasn't a little nervous about the next step). The plan was to wash (Yup! We washed a Warhol!) and apply tissue patches to the back across the damaged areas. This would stabilize the weak spots of the print so that not only would we be able to fix the tears, but reattaching the corner was easier this way as well.

The process of wetting the piece, getting the tears and the corner realigned again all went smoothly. John then applied tissue patches to the back using gelatin. (The tissue also helps provide a foundation for us to do any repairs from the front.) 

(This one was just too good not to include!) 

After the tissue was applied to the back, it was time to temporarily mount the poster to a sheet of Hollytex and a board to dry. 

The first step in restoration is prep work, where we fill the holes, any tiny gaps or imperfections that will show once we start applying paint. Then comes masking, to cover any areas that aren't going to be airbrushed. (Neither of these steps photograph that well unless the repairs are incredibly dramatic, although we have a tremendous staff working on each of these steps.) Once a piece has been masked, then Aaron goes to work. In this case there were three areas that needed to be airbrushed, the bright green and the patched area in the teal.

 (Aaron pulling back the first layer of masking) 

Aaron finished the first round of airbrushing, then the print went to our newest addition Eric for some detail work. He touched up the small chunk that was missing in the blue and red lines of Gotti's lapel.

(We are thrilled to have Eric join our fantastic staff! Check out his blog and work here!)

The print went one more round with Aaron. To really blend in our restoration with the original print he did a thin layer of airbrushing in that very vibrant teal. 

Once the restoration was complete, the final step was to put this print back into place amongst it's fellow collaged pieces. John removed it from the board and the hollytex. 

Don't worry, John's not taking an exacto knife to a Warhol, the tissue patches that we used to reinforce the tears had to be trimmed away so they won't be seen from the front. 

Sometimes putting a collage piece back together can be tricky, however, Warhol had made our job easier because we could use the printed lines of Gotti's jacket as a guide to reposition the print. 

Finally all that was left was to (carefully!) glue it back into position. The yellow marks on the back are the remnants of that old, nasty rubber cement. John used wheat paste (a much safer long term option) to glue the piece back together.  

Et Voila! Warhol Restored! 

This was a fun piece for everyone to work on and a relief to have a relatively simple solution to a Warhol (they are often very complicated and obstreperous pieces to restore, although we are more than up for the challenge!) Don't forget that this is one of the rare examples of projects that you can go see for yourself at the Revolver Gallery in Beverly Hills.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Customer Thank you and Discount


Since our first days of service in 1996 we have restored well over 100,000 posters, fine art pieces, maps, newspapers, toy boxes, album covers and more.  We have created a legacy of precision, promptness, and professionalism that cannot be equaled.  Each piece we receive tells a story, a memory of loved ones passed, a time that reminds us of our youth, a city that we cherish and wear proudly on our sleeves.  Whatever your artwork means to you, it is equally as priceless to each one of us.  We are a restoration company, but more than that, we are here to help you tell your story to the next generation.   

 Let’s look over the past few years of your memories brought back to life.

 We would like to thank all of our clients for trusting us over the past 15 years with their memories.  We look to continue to do the incredible work we do with our all-star staff.  As a thank you, over the next 90 days (expires July 11, 2014), we want to offer our clients a 15% discount on all services for being so loyal and being a part of the Poster Mountain Family.

Please call us at 818.882.1214 or email us at postermount@aol.com if you have any questions.  
Please remember to like us on Facebook and share our blog.

Here is a sneak peek of our Next blog.  
Precision and Professionalism
Look for it in the next few weeks!

No task too small nor too dirty.  
We can do it.