Ruth Weisberg, Dean
School of Fine Arts
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA USA
Telephone: 310-399-8223

Keynote Paper #1: "Syntax of the Print: Revisited"

In this paper I will revisit my 1986 essay "Syntax of the Print: A Search for Aesthetic Content" published in the Tamarind Papers. Using a structuralist model, I examined the function, process and materials of printmaking. I made the case that printmaking has a unique set of historical and material factors that serve as its critical syntax. I posited that the nature of printmaking was shaped by issues of economy, reproducibility and scale. In his seminal essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" Berliner Walter Benjamin traced the history of the graphic arts and privileged the exhibition value of the new photographic and cinematic technologies of his day. At the same time, Benjamin also expressed regret at the "withering aura" of these methods. How do we regard Benjamin ideas today as the processes and materials of art have incorporated more digital methods? In particular what have the effects of new technologies been on printmaking? And what are the constants? Many aspects of the print tradition persist including its relationship to drawing, its potential to serve as a political voice, the social ecology of the printshop, the print as a portable muse, and its tendency to rapid international diffusion. I will posit a dynamic balance between a historic legacy and the new world of digital possibilities.

RUTH WEISBERG is the Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. She received her bachelor and master degrees from the University of Michigan, as well as a Laurea in Painting and Printmaking from the Academia di Belle Arti, Perugia, Italy. After a year at the S. W. Hayter's Atelier 17 in Paris, she taught at Eastern Michigan University. She works primarily in painting, drawing, and printmaking. Her prints, drawings and paintings are in the collections of the American Museum of Art, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Bibliotheque Nationale of France, Paris, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York, among others. Honors include an honorary doctorate, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles, 2001; visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome in 1995, 1994, and 1992; National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar 1994; a Senior Research Fulbright for Italy in 1992; School of Art, University of Michigan Distinguished Alumni/AE Award for 1992; the Distinguished Artist of the Year Award, Fresno Art Museum, 1990. Weisberg is also a Past-President of the College Art Association and a recipient of their Distinguished Teaching of Art Award in 1999. A major documentary Ruth Weisberg: On the Journey by filmmaker Laura Vazquez, was released in 2003. She has been a regular presenter at Southern Graphics Council Conferences in the United States. Weisberg has played an active role in articulating critical theory in printmaking through national conferences in the United States and her various essays in the Tamarind Papers and other publications.  She is represented by Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in Los Angeles, California (

“The Good Daughter”, 1989
Lithograph on Arches Cover white paper
39 1/2 by 29 1/2 inches