In early 1979 I carved a linoleum block portrait of Pat Bag, the enchantingly sinister-looking bass player for The Bags, one of the first and most notorious late 70s punk rock bands in Los Angeles. At their earliest performances band members wore bags over their heads, and each was assured anonymity by taking “Bag” as a last name.
It was in ’79 that The Bags posed for me; soon after Pat left the group and began performing under her own name, Patricia Morrison. She eventually ended up joining The Damned, the first U.K. punk band to have recorded a single, an album, and to have toured the United States. I remember how their 1977 visit to my home city of Los Angeles helped to ignite the L.A. punk scene, so it was fitting that in 1996 Morrison married The Damned’s lead singer, Dave Vanian.
I hand-pulled a single trial proof of my “Pat Bag” print and was pleased with the results, but I never pulled a full edition of prints; the linoleum block has been in storage since 1979 – until 2011.
In that year I worked with master printer John Greco of Josephine Press in Santa Monica, California, to finally publish the suite of prints that should have been issued in 1979.
Each print in the edition was hand-pulled by master-printer John Greco on beautiful heavy white paper (acid free) using Dan Smith traditional relief ink; all prints are embossed in the lower right corner with the Josephine Press logo. Adhering to the time-honored practice in traditional printmaking, a final “cancellation print” was made after I cut a large “X” cut through the linoleum block – signifying the edition is closed and no further prints can be published from the block.
In all likelihood “Pat Bag” is the only linoleum cut portrait of a punk rocker to have been created anywhere an the planet. As an active participant in the punk explosion that rocked L.A. and the world in 1977, I was one of the few artists to document the chaotic scene as it happened through a series of drawings and paintings. It all reminded me of the German Cabaret phenomenon of the Weimar Republic (1918-33).
Having worked with John Greco in the past to create and publish the original lithographs My Beloved America (which is available for purchase) and El Salvador is Present, I wanted Josephine Press to print my linoleum block of Pat Bag.
Unfortunately the block had been improperly stored, causing some minor warpage; in addition the linoleum had become fragile in places, requiring some restorative work and minor recutting. Due to the unstable condition of the old linoleum block, Greco and I decided a small print run was the only viable option, hence the edition of only twelve prints.
Owing to his immeasurable experience in all facets of printmaking, and his remarkable dedication to craft, Greco managed to pull a beautiful edition of prints that I am quite proud of.
Greco used a 36″ x 60″ American French intaglio press to print my linoleum block. The heavy press, with its colossal steel and aluminum frame, solid steel roll, and elegant oversized star wheel, is considered the world’s finest press for printing etchings, monotypes, collagraphs, wood blocks, and linoleum blocks.
Greco calls it his “Cadillac.” In fact, it is so large that when he first acquired it decades ago, he had to cut a large opening in his studio wall in order to bring the press into his workshop.
Entering the Josephine Press atelier is like crossing into another era, where printmaking skills never fell victim to the whims of today’s postmodern fashions. In Greco’s workshop, time honored skills and techniques are perennial; I can imagine some of my favorite printmakers, Rembrandt, Goya, Edvard Munch, Käthe Kollwitz, working diligently today in some quiet corner of Greco’s studio.
Nevertheless, Greco does possess a 21st century vision for printmaking. He coined the term “tradigital” to describe his innovative print techniques combining traditional methods like woodcuts and etchings with archival digital printing. In the near future I will be working with Greco in producing a new series of etchings as well as linoleum and woodblock prints.