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A tribute to John Hutcheson

A tribute to John Hutcheson

August 30, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Much like the prints he helped create, John Hutcheson left an indelible impression on everyone who knew him.

He was a master printer in all of the traditional hand-printing techniques including etching, woodcut, stone lithography, silkscreen, and handmade paper. He worked with numerous artists, such as Frank Stella, James Rosenquist, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Mitchell, and Robert Motherwell, helping them translate their ideas into prints that often experimented with the form.

John Hutcheson Steven Sorman From Away b
John Hutcheson inks a woodblock for Steven Sorman’s From away, Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York, 1988. Photographer: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002.

After two years of study at the renowned Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he taught and trained printmakers at institutions worldwide.

Earlier this year, Hutcheson wrote and recorded a series of audio guides to accompany MOCA Jacksonville's printmaking exhibitions: Time Zones, In Living Color, The Other, and objects from the Permanent Collection. Some of those texts also appeared on the MOCA Blog.

Hutcheson died in June at age 71, shortly after retiring as a printmaking professor from the University of North Florida. A memorial service was held on August 27 at the Fine Arts Center on UNF's campus. UNF has established the John Hutcheson Memorial Scholarship to honor the memory of this masterful printer and passionate educator.

We asked some of the people who worked with Hutcheson to share their stories.

John Hutcheson James Rosenquist Time Dust c
John Hutcheson works on James Rosenquist’s Time Dust, Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York, October 1991. Photographer: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002.

JAIME DESIMONE

When MOCA Jacksonville decided to produce an audio guide to complement an exhibition on James Rosenquist's late prints, I was asked to engage John about a potential collaboration. Nearly a year into my role, our paths at the Museum or university had yet to pass, so I blindly emailed him about the project.

At first, he was hesitant and skeptical of this fairly new curator and beyond protective of his dear friend Mr. Rosenquist, describing his collaborative role with artists as a “lawyer-client privilege.” I echoed his sentiment, cherishing those relationships more than words can describe, and John went on to request “convincing.” I obliged in what would become a wonderful exchange of meetings and emails about everything and anything printmaking related. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from John with the subject line, “I feel better,” and from that point, it was nothing but full steam ahead.

When we finally met to discuss the project in person, I was nervous: I was going to meet with THE John Hutcheson, who had worked alongside THE James Rosenquist. As a curator, I probably couldn't have been anymore star-struck. Not knowing John and being overly cautious, I printed every possible document to share with him at our meeting-checklists, large images, descriptions, and floor plans-hoping, just hoping it would be enough convincing. His warm demeanor and smile immediately put me at ease; before me was a man with so much passion and experience yet so humble and ultimately generous. His infectious spirit set the tone for our meeting. (For example, he once referred to himself as a “worker-bee” in reference to his role in a print shop. A dogged printer, I always revere him as a master printer, not a bee, and believe others share my sentiment.) That afternoon, we toured the galleries, gushed over images, and squealed with excitement at the level of sophistication to produce the prints that would be on view in Time Zones.

John ultimately agreed to contribute his expertise about the technical side of printmaking, share the hows and whys of transferring image to paper, and produce audio tracks about specific works. He also kindly lent his ear (and mind) to me on countless occasions. When I inquired about why Rosenquist would use Mylar and lithographic tusche in some lithographs over others, John thoughtfully replied with a 794-word email with potential reasons; his energy and enthusiasm bounced off my screen. Thanks to him, I now know more about Mylar than I could ever imagine.

For me, the true joy occurred when we walked through Times Zones together during the members' preview. Anyone near us would overhear “ooos” or “ahhs,” as we'd point (but not touch) the actual objects within an arm's length away. Thank you, Mr. Hutcheson, for an irreplaceable experience and lasting memory very close to my heart. The pleasure will always be all mine.

HANNAH CUSTER

It is hard to write something about a professor that will continually be an influence in my life and his students' lives. Professor John Hutcheson was more than a teacher to me, but a friend. There was never a time that I would pass his office and he wouldn't invite me to sit and catch up. He was the type of professor who never gave up on his students. Professor Hutcheson's love for art fueled him. He was filled with encouragement and a willingness to help. He always had his students' best interests at heart and genuinely wanted them to excel. For me, Professor Hutcheson was my professor, friend, and cheerleader. I can't remember a time when he wasn't smiling and encouraging me to pursue my goals. Professor Hutcheson would constantly challenge me to look at art and the gallery space in different ways. His kind disposition was contagious, and he will live on through the students who were lucky were enough to have the opportunity to be taught under him. Thank you, Professor Hutcheson. You will be missed. 

John Hutcheson UNF Collage e
After John Hutcheson's UNF class studied James Rosenquist's work, they made this collage to send to the artist.

PAULA RUNYON

Everybody who knew John Hutcheson will remember the delightful experience of hearing him tell a story. A few semesters ago, John decided to offer a class on the artist James Rosenquist and contemporary printmaking. We all jumped at the chance for having a two-hour long storytelling session with John twice a week; it was a dream come true for so many of his students. Throughout this class, John showed his amazing ability to make a learning environment feel welcoming and friendly.

One day, he proposed that we all meet downstairs “in the backyard” to have a lesson on how to craft handmade paper. For those of us who spent almost all of our time at school, it really did feel like a backyard, and to me it was such a sweet reflection of John's sentimentality for life and love for his students. He would continuously encourage us to make our work more personal. This led to many great conversations about self-discovery, and when it came time for a critique, we all felt more like we were sitting down at the family dinner table to talk about out days.

This is just one of the ways in which John was an exemplary professor. His kindness and humility were ever present when talking with his students. If you didn't already know, it would be hard to guess that John was among the most highly honored master printers in America. For those of us who did know, it was a special connection: a channel to a time and place where printmakers and artists were just as important as doctors and lawmakers, and John made us all feel so important.

I will forever cherish the skills I learned from him on printing and lithography, but even more so I cherish the life skills and lessons on how to be an artist that were forever flowing from his vast pool of knowledge. He made the art world a little less confusing and a whole lot more comforting.

In the last week of the class, we each presented a research project on any topic relating to Rosenquist and printmaking. John was unable to be there due to recuperation from a recent surgery, but we filmed the presentations so he could feel like he was there. John's response was a testament to how he lived and taught. He sincerely applauded our efforts and congratulated us as a class saying, “You all pitched in to create a vibrant and active discussion about art. And you each brought it home to show how this intersected with your personal life as a young artist. I was so impressed and so interested in your opinions and observations. You all give me great faith in the future. You are my heroes.”

John's kind, gentle, and encouraging words have had more than a major impact on my life and will forever serve as a reminder that somebody believes in me. To a young artist, there is nothing more valuable. Let us all remember John Hutcheson as a great teacher and friend, supporter, adviser, and most of all our hero. John, you are our hero!

John Hutcheson Terence La Noue The Talking Drums d
John Hutcheson pulls an impression from an assembled woodblock plate for Terence La Noue’s The talking drums, Tyler Graphics Ltd., Mount Kisco, New York, 1987. Photographer: Marabeth Cohen-Tyler. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Gift of Kenneth Tyler 2002.

JUDITH SOLODKIN

In 1972, I walked into the office of Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on my first day of the two-year master printer program. Two very tall handsome men, John Hutcheson and Richard Newlin, joined me for the initial meeting. We were three inseparable printers on our way to careers in lithography, and our friendship was constant over the future forty-four years. I started SOLO Press and then SOLO Impression in New York City, also teaching at Pratt Institute and School of Visual Arts. Richard, publisher and printer, established Houston Fine Art Press, and John Hutcheson became master printer for Tyler Graphics and professor at Rutgers University and University of Northern Florida. 

John was always generous, gracious, and good humored. Initially, I remember his two huge Newfoundland dogs who lay panting from the Albuquerque heat on the wet graining floor. At Tamarind, becoming the first woman master printer was stressful, and one morning I came to work to be greeted by a flower in a vase placed on the press by John. He printed until the very last second as his son was born and finally rushed off to the hospital with an enormous smile on his face. We met at my then-studio in Soho previous to a gallery tour, and John delayed leaving by tinkering with one of my lithography presses; the machines caught his eye, and he couldn't resist.

John was a strong part of my history, although we unfortunately didn't stay in touch. I appreciated his accomplishments as a fine art printer, knowing the extraordinary complexity of variables and balances that makes an exquisite work of art. I miss him.

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