There was a period when Absolut had a wonderful ad campaign. Every month or two they produced a new ad that was cleverly done. They were shot by good photographers, but I was never one of them! Nevertheless, the ads kept coming. After a while I got tired of seeing them, because they all looked so similar. I decided to create a visual commentary on the ads; a variation on the theme so to speak.
I took a photograph of one of their bottles and “lifted” the label to make an image map, which I put on a 3D rendition of the bottle I had built. Then I created a scene around it. I imported the cat from Poser software and dented the carefully modeled garbage cans using yet another software program. And so it went. I added details wherever I could.
A Brooklyn Museum Invitation
Then one day I got a call from either a staff person or from curator Marilyn Kushner herself inviting me to have a print in an upcoming show the Brooklyn Museum was having. Barbara Millstein must have told Ms. Kushner about my monthly emails. The show was called “Digital: Printmaking Now” and the opening was to be in August of 2001. If it happened today I would submit one of my other images, but at the time they didn’t exist. “Absolute Hangover” was one I thought would be cool.
I knew someone at Epson and asked him if the company would be willing to make a print for the show and he said yes. My 3D scene took a couple of days to render at the file size that would be needed to make a print. I then sent the final image file to Epson and they shipped my print directly to the museum. I thought I was done. Then a woman from The Brooklyn Museum called.
“Mr. Neumann we’re having a problem with your print. The ink is turning to powder and falling off the paper.” Imagine how you would feel. I felt worse.
Marilyn Kushner, the curator, called to say the deadline was fast approaching and they needed my print as soon as possible. She had worked with Nash Editions, in California, and suggested I call Mac Holbert to order a print from them. Mac was familiar with the Epson problem and so we used a rag paper, which he shipped directly to me.
A Transformation Begins
When the print arrived I opened the package and marveled at the beauty of the matte 100% rag paper print. It felt like a new dimension. After so many years of making black and white prints on “gelatin silver” paper in my darkroom, I now encountered a look I liked much better. It had nothing to do with a darkroom, however. I was looking at a Giclee, or ink jet, print and the texture of the paper, along with the matte surface was gorgeous. I had a sense that I was finished with darkroom printing. That change came sooner than I expected.
“Digital: Printmaking Now” opened in August of 2001, with almost no reviews. I guess reviewers were on vacation, and yet the show was terrific. My father should only have known that his son had work in an exhibit with Albrecht Dürer and other wonderful artists.
The Lone Artist
I took a subway from Manhattan to The Brooklyn Museum for the opening. The event began with all the artists in a room with patrons, museum members and, as I remember it, lots of kids who asked me to sign their show catalogs. Then I went to look at the exhibit and find my print. I had invited friends and my cadre of 3D buddies. I found them and expected to leave with them to celebrate. Instead, there was some confusion and my friends left without me. I had to take the subway home by myself, which was an anticlimactic conclusion to a special evening.
It was August of 2001. 9/11 was soon to follow.