Renowned Artists’ Workshop Gemini G.E.L. Turns 50
“Gemini gave you the feeling that they could do anything you wanted,” Claes Oldenburg once said of Gemini G.E.L., the artists’ workshop and publisher of limited-edition prints and sculptures. This year, as it celebrates 50 years, the shop reflects on its history and growth into one of the world’s most fertile grounds for adventurous artists.
The germ of Gemini G.E.L. was a small printing shop opened by master printer Kenneth Tyler in L.A. in the early 1960s. One auspicious day, Sidney B. Felsen and Stanley Grinstein walked into Tyler’s shop and saw potential. The three men became partners and, in 1966, transformed the original shop into Gemini G.E.L. It was founded with an artist-centered vision. The mission—upheld to this day—was to invite artists to work closely with master printers and fabricators, giving them the time, space, and creative leeway to pursue projects they might otherwise have thought impossible.
Within a year of its founding, Gemini G.E.L. was flourishing. Among the first artists they collaborated with was Josef Albers. Others soon followed, including Robert Rauschenberg and Oldenburg, who made the shop’s first sculptural edition. The roster of artists who have since realized projects there—many returning multiple times over the years—is staggering: Sophie Calle, Julie Mehretu, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, and dozens more. Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and architect Frank Gehry have also used the shop.
Fortunately, in 1981, Gemini G.E.L. partnered with the National Gallery of Art to create an archive that preserves examples of nearly every edition generated out of the shop. Among the most recent projects keeping Gemini G.E.L. busy is a series of irreverent screen prints by John Baldessari in which the artist sends-up the fashion industry and its place in pop culture. One of his more understated prints, Valentine (2015), features the much-discussed image of reality starlet Kendall Jenner walking down the runway, this time with an arrow piercing her chest and emerging out her back. She’s 20 years old—three decades younger than the monumental studio that created the image.