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Friday, October 12, 2012

Printmaking with Lou Stovall: A Treasure on 16mm

Lou Stovall is a prominent  D.C.-based artist who specializes in silkscreen printmaking. In 1983, the  
Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum (ACM) showcased the work of Lou and his wife Di in the exhibition “Through Their Eyes: The Art of Lou and Di Stovall,” which was on view from September 18 to December 18, 1983.

The film Lou Stovall was produced for the 1983 exhibition at the ACM. The film's director, Sharon Reickens, is still on board at ACM as the Museum’s Deputy Director.  Lou Stovall takes the audience through Stovall’s entire printmaking process. The 14 minute film was shot on 16mm and was filmed on-site in Stovall’s Newark St. studio over the course of one week. It includes shots of completed works, works-in-progress, and Stovall and his two assistants at work along with commentary from the artist, who explains what he is doing as the audience sees it. The film is shot in a manner that evokes the mechanical nature of Stovall's art form, with many extreme close-ups of his hands at work. This mirrors commentary from the artist, who discusses the "artistic" vs. "mechanical" aspects of printmaking. 

In addition to providing filmic documentation of local art and culture as it follows the artistic process of the film’s namesake, who is oft referred to as the “dean of printmaking in D.C,” Lou Stovall also serves as a document of an artistic process as it related to artists in the 1980s. This makes the film a useful historical record in looking at the trajectory of silkscreening - a process that dates back to China's Song Dynasty and was popularized as a modern art form by Andy Warhol in the 1960s.

While the film was initially projected as part of the exhibition for which it was produced, Lou Stovall was also selected as a finalist in the Educational Film Industry Association’s 26th Annual American Film Festival in New York in 1984. It also won the 1984 CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Competition in the category of The Arts. 

The film now exists in video form as part the DVD compilation Black History: From Civil War Through Today, which is still available on the marketplace and held by a number of libraries, but the only known 16mm film prints are housed  in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives along with the original Eastman Color Negatives.

Top: Lou Stovall painting in his studio. Bottom: Lou Stovall being filmed in his studio.
Photographs from ACM Archives' exhibit records

Museum patrons watch the film at the exhibit opening on September 18, 1983. Photograph from ACM Archives' exhibit records

Blogs across the Smithsonian will give an inside look at the Institution’s archival collections and practices during a month long blogathon in celebration of October’s American Archives Month. See additional posts from our other participating blogs, as well as related events and resources, on the Smithsonian’s Archives Month website.

Taylor McBride, Audiovisual Archivist
Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

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