by Marcia Watt
A 40 year retrospective of Twinrocker Paper, arguably the most important American paper mill of the late 20th century, is currently on view through December 17, 2010, at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia. “Twinrocker: Forty Years of Hand Papermaking” is a celebration of the exceptional work of the husband and wife team, Howard and Kathryn Clark. The exhibit encompasses the breadth, depth and exquisite quality of the work produced by them through the inclusion of photographs and videos of the Clarks, as well as examples of their superb work.
A bit of history, Howard is a mechanical engineer by training and degree, Kathryn holds an MFA in printmaking. While living and working in San Francisco in 1971, the Clarks began to explore the process of hand papermaking when Kathryn wanted to use handmade paper for her prints. She quickly learned that none was being made in the United States at the time. Thus, began the Clarks quest to make fine handmade paper available. Working collaboratively in their respective areas of expertise, and through much trial and error, they explored and gained competency in the process of hand papermaking. Their first order for paper came from Roger Levenson of Tamalpais Press, and their circle of collaboration grew.
With the death of Howard’s father in 1972 Howard and Kathryn moved to the Clark family’s farm in Brookston, Indiana, northwest of Indianapolis. They immediately got to work and built a 24 x 48 foot studio. As people heard of the Clarks’ work, orders for papers began to come in from all over the U. S., including Pauper’s Press, Landfall Press, and Bird and Bull Press, and the Clarks worked with each press to create a paper to suit their individual needs.
As one approaches the entrance of the exhibit, one sees a portion of the Academy Award nominated film “The Mark of the Maker: Twinrocker – Handmade Paper,“ as it is shown in a continuous loop. It is a tantalizing tease of what is yet to come. Several photographs, taken in 1982 and 1983 by Todd Matus, show the Clark family farm and the paper studio in Brookston, Indiana. The pictures include a somewhat forlorn farmhouse, Kathryn’s studio with several works in progress, and an uncompleted roll that Howard was working on. Perhaps the most charming photo is of Kathryn examining a newly pulled sheet of paper still on the mold.
The items produced by Twinrocker that are included in the exhibit were produced from the mid 1970s up until the present, and the collaborative nature of the Clarks’ work is evident in everything. The Clarks worked with the client, be it an individual artist or a press, in order to produce papers that were most suited to the vision of the artist, whether it was for a broadside, book, or painting. In “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” 1984, the Clarks made round sheets of paper for the Arion Press publication of John Ashbery’s work. It included original prints by Richard Avedon, Elaine de Koonig, Willem de Koonig, Jim Dine and others. The Clarks also worked with the artist Chuck Close to create paper for many of his works. One of his pixelated self-portraits is included in the exhibit.
The books included in this exhibit are stunning. Through the years the Clarks have collaborated with a large number of private presses, including the Janus Press, Perishable Press, Yolla Bolly Press, Brighton Press, 21st Editions, Pacific Editions, Avit Press, Sherwin Beach Press, and Red Hydra Press. Most are case bound bindings, but there are a few less traditional structures, like “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” and concertinas. The earliest piece in the exhibit, “Aura,” is from 1977. The 4 foot long landscape of colored pulps illustrates the poem by Hayden Carruth and is clearly a beautiful collaborative effort between Twinrocker and Janus Press.
My favorite book in the entire exhibit is extremely subtle. It is “Inscription,” by Diane Samuels, 2001. At first glance it appears to be a leather bound blank book, albeit, a beautifully bound blank book. Upon closer examination one sees that there actually is text on the pages, or rather, in the pages, as the text is created in watermarks.
All of the pieces call out to be touched and opened, and closely examined, but that is not possible as they are all behind glass or plexiglass. So it is good to note that a sample book of Twinrocker paper is available and allows people to feel the exquisite nature of many Twinrocker papers.
With so many items from Twinrocker available in a single location, this is definitely an exhibit worth seeing.