CONTEMPORARY MONOTYPE PHENOMENON

Pentimento XXII

Pentimento XXII
Dennis Olsen, 1991
watercolor monotype, 55.9 x 55.9 cm
(22 x 22 in.), Private Collection


Olsen Biography

Dennis Olsen began making watercolor monotypes in 1985 after developing a method of printing from three separate Plexiglas plates, two of which were painted with watercolors and one rolled with a transparent layer of lithographic ink. Because his work requires reflection and contemplation, and because the paint remains soluble on the plate, he can rework the image over a period of days or even weeks, usually spending between ten and twenty hours on each image. Using rollers, airbrush, blotters, needles, watercolor crayons, and sponges, along with the traditional watercolor brushes, Olsen can create a prodigious variety of surface textures. The combination of three plates, printed one over the other onto dampened paper, produces a luminous color that cannot be achieved by traditional watercolor on paper. He retains the spontaneity of watercolor along with the precision and patient buildup of oils. By printing the images as monotypes instead of leaving them as watercolor compositions, Olsen can use the residue left on the plates after printing to generate the next image, which retains a trace of the previous one. The appearance of residual images is especially important in a series, titled Pentimenti, that refers to the vestiges of antiquity encountered in almost every region of Italy, where Olsen has spent a great deal of time.

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