Exploring Visual Arts across Madison
May 5, 2014
09:53 AM

A Bustling Time for Tandem Press

A Bustling Time for Tandem Press


“Interior: Zebra with Two Chairs and Funky Fur" by Mickalene Thomas

On my first visit to Tandem Press’s new transitional space, I expected to find a less-than-ideal setting and staff with a make-do attitude as they raise money for a permanent space on the UW–Madison campus.

Instead, the organization’s temporary digs—in a historic roundhouse on Commercial Avenue—are beautiful and the staff is busier than ever collaborating with artists from around the country and beyond on a variety of innovative and complex prints.

Executive director Paula Panczenko showed me around the airy, brick-walled building, which Tandem moved into in July after renting a downtown space from the state for the past twenty-five years.

A bright, graphic mural by the Irish artist Maser is the first thing most visitors see. And if they like what they see, they should return in September, when the young street artist comes to Tandem. Panczenko’s Irish nieces and nephews introduced her to Maser, whom she subsequently ran into on a recent visit to her native Dublin—and promptly invited to Tandem to make a series of prints.

And there are plenty of other artists coming to Tandem between now and then.

Jim Dine, known for his long-running series reinterpreting hearts, skulls and other symbolic images, returns this month, when he also has an exhibition, “I knew him.” Jim Dine Skulls, 1982–2000, opening May 16 at the Chazen.

August will see popular Tandem collaborator Judy Pfaff returning to the press, while Cuban artist Sandra Ramos makes her first visit in October. And in early 2015 comes the arrival of Michelle Grabner, a former UW faculty member who served as one of the curators of this year’s Whitney Biennial.

Tandem attracts such a high caliber of artists partly because of the experimentation it allows and encourages. The press’s affiliation with the university affords them the freedom, and they’ve earned a strong reputation because of it. One master printer working during my visit mentioned that he doesn’t recall ever saying no to something an artist wanted to try.

While I walked with Panczenko through the vast studio—which Tandem was allowed to open up into a two-story-tall space to accommodate its large presses—she pointed out a large Dine heart work on a wall, as well as early prints of some Maser designs.

And she and a printer showed me a few works by recent collaborator Mickalene Thomas. The elaborate prints feature multiple elements that require a variety of different printmaking techniques. One piece used roughly forty-five unique elements. But when you see the prints in person, such as Thomas’s “Interior: Zebra with Two Chairs and Funky Fur,” which was hanging on a wall, you understand why both the artist and printmakers are willing to spend so much time on them. Tandem plans to complete the prints by June 1 and send them to New York for Thomas to sign. 

Tandem is open to the public on Saturdays. Visitors can peruse prints for sale and, if printing happens to be taking place, get a glimpse into the process. This fall, the press will begin offering monthly special events featuring music by jazz students from the UW School of Music.

Find more information on Tandem Press at tandempress.wisc.edu.

Photos—of Mickalene Thomas's "Interior: Zebra with Two Chairs and Funky Fur" and Jim Dine's "The New Building"—courtesy of Tandem Press.

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About This Blog

A perk of being managing editor of Madison Magazine is the opportunity to delve into exciting aspects of the city—and Madison's art scene is one of my favorites. It's dynamic, diverse and always inspiring. Join me here for artist interviews, details on events, exhibition previews, reviews and more.

Find past arts coverage on my former blog.

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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