Martin Disler

[no title]


Not on display

Martin Disler 1949–1996
Etching on paper
Image: 530 × 730 mm
Purchased 1983

Catalogue entry

P07846 [from] Endless Modern Licking of Crashing Globe by Black Doggie - Time Bomb 1981 [P07839-P07846; P07990; complete]

Eight etchings each approx. 20 7/8 × 28 3/4 (530 × 730) on Van Gelder paper approx. 22 7/8 × 29 1/2 (556 × 750), printed by Paul Marcus at Aeropress Inc., New York and published by Peter Blum Editions, New York and Zurich (the portfolio is accompanied by a cassette tape and a pen-knife mounted on board)
Each inscribed ‘Martin Disler’ b.r. and ‘49/49’; each impressed with the printer's stamp
Purchased from Peter Blum Editions (Grant-in-Aid) 1983
Lit: Dieter Hall, ‘Eine Neue Grafik-Edition’, Du no.9, 1981, p.124 (repr.); Bice Curiger, Looks et Tenebrae, New York and Zurich, 1984, pp.111–21 (repr.pp.187–95)

The following entry is based upon a conversation held between the artist and the compiler on 7 March 1985 and has been approved by the artist:

Although Martin Disler had had some experience of etching prior to making this portfolio, he had never before worked on a large scale. In this portfolio he embraces a wide variety of etching techniques, some of which he had never previously used, and explores the possibilities of the medium. He employs aquatint, soft and hard ground, sugar lift, drypoint and photo-etching. Disler's paintings are gestural and improvisatory and his printmaking techniques reflect this approach; for example in one print he literally pressed his hand into the soft ground.

Disler has a preference for working at night but was unable to etch at night because the workshop facilities were not available. He therefore made a series of drawings and poems at night time which would put him in the mood for working on plates in the morning. Although the prints do not exactly resemble any particular drawings they are close to them in spirit. Disler has said of his method of working:

Manhattan seemed to me well suited for hanging out far above the rim of the world in order to see more sharply than ever what was going on in people's faces and in the streets. Every morning at 11.00 a.m, I went up to the fifth floor in Lafayette Street. Waiting for me there was Paul Marcus, a printer who grew up in the Bronx and is incredibly experienced in the techniques of the trade. I had been drawing with charcoal and lithographic crayons all night, and I spoke with Paul about the drawings and how they might best be realized. In reality, I was fully determined to work in such a manner that it is impossible to recognize at a glance whether etching is the medium used. I noticed the staff's extremely orthodox attitude toward their craft, and knew I would not have an easy time. While I was smearing ‘soft ground’ (vernismou) with my finger onto the copper plate and looking deep into my picture through the mirror image, I actually got the impression that Pat, the supervisor at the printer's, would pass out. By the second copy, though, she found it ‘magical’, and Paul and I understood each other so well that I got the feeling that the etchings, although derived from my drawings, made at night, increasingly grew out of the conversation with him. The atmosphere was extremely tense because, on the one hand, Paul's preparations of the plate and tools proceeded slowly and ritualistically, and I, on the other hand, attacked the plates quickly and decisively. I had become aggressive from waiting, and as a consequence the tools often broke. We were determined to use every technique. Paul and I noticed how the etchings became several dimensions deeper than the drawings, and we smiled at each other (quoted by Curiger, pp.117–18).

The eight parts do not form a sequence or a narrative but are separate images and are accompanied by a cassette tape on which Disler recites a text entitled ‘Nigger-Joint Cabaret’. The text was written at night and provides a link between the night time activities and the daytime etching, although it was not conceived specifically as an accompaniment. It incorporates the title of the portfolio and relates, ‘the Story of Mr Feels Like a Million’, who is a black dog, and makes reference to New York life. Like the drawings and the etchings it has an automatic quality and is not a straightforward narrative. Images of violence and sexuality pervade the text and relate perhaps to the inclusion of the knife. In addition certain images within it appear to relate directly to the etchings.

Disler considers etching to be an important aspect of his work. He has stated in conversation with the compiler that he regards it as ‘alchemy to make a drawing on a plate and you do not know what is coming up’. He particularly likes the richness of black which can be achieved in printing.

With the exception of P07841 which is made from two plates all the works are made from one plate each.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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