The Idea of Limited Editions Opened an Unlimited Career

“Yellow Wave”

Bill Hall wasn’t attracted to printmaking because of its long history or many iterations. Instead, he liked its reassuring accessibility. “I was too intimidated staring at a blank canvas,” he admits candidly.

Pegged to be an artist most of his life —“family members praised my scribbling, so I kept doing it” — Hall went to the University of Alabama, saying he “intended to be a commercial artist like Norman Rockwell.” This was the mid-1960s, and, as Hall points out, “it seemed like the country was exploding [in] protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.”

With a less-than-stellar academic record and with the draft looming, he enlisted in the Air Force as an illustrator and spent the next four years primarily preparing charts and graphs. Afterwards, he returned to Alabama, encountered printmaking and etching, and finished his four-year degree; then he headed to the University of Texas, where he earned an MFA.

Rolling with it: Bill Hall sometimes throws dice to plot the dimensions of an abstract work. Photo by Morgan Ford.

Moving on from a somewhat unsatisfying career as a teacher, Hall relocated to New York City in 1982, igniting his printmaking career. He worked at The Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop before eventually establishing his own print studio, New York Limited Editions Press. While NYLE was not ultimately successful, it did lead to his being hired at Pace Editions in 1988, where he became a master intaglio printer, collaborating on hundreds of print editions with some of the country’s foremost painters, including Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Mangold, and others.

Noted for his minimalist abstracts, Hall explains, “I usually work from disorder toward order, by sorting through a lot of possibilities in thumbnail sketches.” He uses random means — actually throwing dice — to plot black squares or vertical lines on a grid. “I do hundreds of these and then select ones that intrigue me the most,” he explains. “For me, they are the ones that are a little ‘off’ and not neatly balanced, thus creating tension — or a push-and-pull — between the elements.”

Genesis Profile II Blue

His prints at Momentum Gallery are created on one or two copper plates using aquatint and drypoint processes, and then editioned (numbered prints that are exactly the same). “Some others began this way,” says Bill, “but became unique [i.e., not editioned] by adding acrylic washes and/or being cut and reassembled as collages.”

Following a 27-year career, Hall retired in 2015 and with his wife, Sara, moved to Western North Carolina. But he still reflects on his time at Pace. “I can’t overstate how much that influenced me, working with so many reputable artists.” (He and Sara recently donated a collection of more than 450 printer’s proofs to the University of Alabama.) “While participating in their art making, I learned a lot. I don’t know if it benefitted my own work or just confused me, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Bill Hall, Asheville, billhallartwork.com, represented by Momentum Gallery, 24 N. Lexington Ave. Call 828-505-8550 or see momentumgallery.com for more information.

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