Crown Point Press began in 1962 as a print workshop, and started publishing prints in 1965 with etching portfolios by Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud. It functioned as both workshop and publisher until 1971 when its founder, Kathan Brown, formed an alliance with the New York publisher Parasol Press. In that year Crown Point Press moved from Brown’s Berkeley basement to a loft space in downtown Oakland, and —through Parasol Press— began working with New York artists Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, and others who would later be seen as key members of the Minimal art movement.
In 1977 Crown Point Press shifted its emphasis back to its own publishing program, and began working with a group of mainly Conceptual artists including Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Tom Marioni, Hans Haacke, and John Cage. Click here for a list of artists published by Crown Point. They represent a variety of contemporary art approaches, and many of them live in countries other than the United States.
Art historian Susan Tallman in her 1996 book, The Contemporary Print, describes Crown Point Press as “the most instrumental American printshop in the revival of etching as a medium of serious art.” Much credit is due Karen McCready, sales director of Crown Point from 1982 through 1995. She opened and directed a Crown Point Press gallery in New York’s SoHo district, and her success there encouraged the addition of Asian woodcut techniques to the press’s printmaking activity.
In 1982, the 20th anniversary year of Crown Point Press, the press began a program in which two or three artists a year traveled to Kyoto, Japan, to work with printer Tadashi Toda. His family had handed down traditional watercolor woodcut printing skills since the 17th century. That program led to a similar one in China, which began in 1986. Both programs, however, ended in 1989, when a major earthquake in San Francisco unexpectedly caused Crown Point’s move to its present location on Hawthorne Street. To learn more about the woodblock programs in Japan and China, click here.
Aside from the Asian woodblock programs, Crown Point has always concentrated on etching. Its director Valerie Wade, who joined Crown Point in 1988, has shepherded the press since San Francisco’s 1989 earthquake and subsequent move to its Hawthorne Street building.
Crown Point Press celebrated its 25th birthday with an exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and archives of its work are owned by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. An exhibition jointly sponsored by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Gallery was held in 1997, Crown Point’s 35th year.
In 2012, Crown Point Press celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Kathan Brown published her memoir, Know That You Are Lucky the same year. The exhibition Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press at the National Gallery featured 125 workings proofs and final prints by 25 artists who worked at Crown Point Press from 1972 through 2010. The catalog accompanying the exhibition has an essay by curators Judith Brodie and Adam Greenhalgh.
Crown Point Press is located in San Francisco, its entrance on Hawthorne Street around the corner from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Its gallery is open to the public. With a staff of ten, Crown Point produces and publishes etchings by three or four invited artists a year. It also holds summer workshops open to all.
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