Today I took in Manfred Kirchheimer’s “Art Is… the Permanent Revolution” which is both social commentary and instructional art documentary. Here is a collaborative trio of a painter and lithographer; a woodcutter and a painter; and an etcher. These artists are creating their own prints and discussing the roles that many famous artists played in putting forth the ideas of the people in times of political strife.
Names you may know from art history Honoré Daumier, Francisco de Goya, Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, Otto Dix, Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet turned to the form of lithography printing as this was a medium popular in France during the mid-nineteenth century. Not only useful for producing amusing images, but also for giving illustration to the spirit of the revolutions of the era.
Political propaganda and the concerns of the working class were often subject material in lithographic prints of this time. Artists often take it upon themselves to show the consciousness of the society they are part of, the struggles of the masses therein transformed into an easily understood form. It is pointed out in this film that of the famous names mentioned, artists did not typically know how to do the printing. The artists would create images and rely on a master printer to produce the final result.
Sociopolitical focus on the past depicted with lithographic prints, is counter-pointed by the artists in this film, who are also here creating present-day statements of their own such as the subject of recent use of torture and in putting forth the “oil for blood” war concept that is weighing upon the minds of many modern Americans.
Although I am very appreciative of history and especially of the role that art plays along the timeline of humanity, I enjoyed the technical aspects as well. Multiple forms of lithographic printing are being demonstrated as the artists are discussing the past and the present-day social relativity that runs deep in the art of printmaking. There is even mention of the history from the origins of the rare and precious limestone only found in Bavaria to the tusche method also considered traditional in the sense that 20th century technological advances have greatly changed and further developed the process of creating such prints. In my opinion, most artists would find this an enriching return on an 80 minute investment. Check Rotten Tomatoes for reviews, and also you may view the official trailer on their site.