Printmaker Tom Hück explores the art of provocation

Emory Report | Feb. 13, 2019

Hück carves one of the wood blocks used to print "Electric Baloneyland."

In his St. Louis studio, Hück carves one of the wood blocks used to print “Electric Baloneyland.”

Three separate art panels, all gold and black, with a lot of scenes including humans an animals

Tom Hück (American, born 1971). Electric Baloneyland, 2017. Chiaroscuro woodcut on okawara paper. Museum purchase.

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Artist Tom Hück’s admiration of Renaissance printmaker Albrecht Dürer is fierce — and indelible. During a life-changing summer when he was 12, Hück encountered the work of Dürer twice: once at the Uffizi in Florence, Italy, and again at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “I saw the entire set of ‘The Apocalypse’ for the first time,” he recalls. “I thought [it was] just badass and wicked as hell!” 

But it only occurred to Hück that he too should be a printmaker when he was studying art in college and was required to take a printmaking class: “In that very moment of pulling the paper off of the block, I found what I was born to do.”

Hück now runs his own press, Evil Prints, in St. Louis, Missouri. He and Dürer are the subjects of the exhibition “Rival Cuts: Process & Technique in Prints by Tom Hück & Albrecht Dürer” — which brings together the work of student and master, challenger and rival, admirer and hero — on view at Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum from Feb. 16 through June 9. 

With support from the Donna and Marvin Schwartz Foundation Artist-in-Residence Program and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Hück will be in residence at the Carlos Museum from Feb. 16-23, participating in campus and community activities. 

Leaving his mark

Though he doesn’t remember a single moment when he began considering Dürer as a rival, Hück is fully conscious of the artist’s influence, which he finds motivating.

“When I began obsessing over printmaking history, I just so wanted to be a part of it, to leave my mark in there somewhere,” Hück explains. Printmaking history, it should be noted, has also left its mark on Hück, who sports Dürer tattoos.

“I remember at a certain point,” Hück notes, “I wanted to make prints that were as great as my hero’s, so every day when I get up and go to work in my studio, I’m thinking about how the hell I can make anything as good as Dürer’s ‘Knight, Death, and the Devil.’” 

Hück understands the importance of studying art history and finds it difficult to imagine a life unmarked by his pivotal encounter with Dürer. At this point in his career, Hück himself has reached hero status. He has a devoted following of collectors and trains the next generation of printmakers at Evil Press.

Not unlike Hück himself, the centerpiece of “Rival Cuts,” “Electric Baloneyland,” is larger than life and provocative. The chiaroscuro woodcut triptych measures 86 x 108 inches, and though similar in technique to the work of Dürer, it is clearly heir to the satire of Daumier and R. Crumb, whom Hück also loves. 

In this unapologetic work of sociopolitical commentary, Hück filters visual motifs of the county fair such as rides and a shooting gallery through the satirical lenses of irony and exaggeration in a critique of America’s heartland. 

When asked about his heroes, Hück acknowledges the joy that studying the works of Dürer and other artists has brought to his life: “Heroes are important. Art history is important. Young artists need to know what came before.”

Campus and community events 

As the 2019 Schwartz Center Artist-in-Residence, Hück will have the opportunity to share his work and passion with Emory students through visits to art classes and a week-long collaborative printmaking activity that will allow students to work together in a super-sized Student Studio experience.

Public events will also offer the larger Emory and Atlanta communities a chance to engage with the artist. 

Highlights of Hück’s residency at Emory include:

• Meet the Artist, Saturday, Feb. 16, 7-9 p.m., Carlos Museum, Ackerman Hall: See the show, meet the artist, and enjoy barbeque and beer. Fee: $10 for members; $15 for nonmembers; $20 at the door. Click here to register.

• Prints and Pints, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m., and Friday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., Atlanta Printmakers Studio: Have a beer and pull some prints with artist Tom Hück at the Atlanta Printmakers Studio. Working from one of Hück's blocks, participants will be able to pull their own print and talk with the artist. Space is limited, and registration is required by calling 404-727-6118. Fee: $25 for the general public; $20 for Carlos Museum and APS members; $10 for students. The Atlanta Printmakers Studio is located at 675 Metropolitan Pkwy SW, Atlanta, GA 30310. Transportation will be provided for Emory students.

• Collaborative Printmaking for Emory Students, Monday-Friday, Feb. 18-22, 1-4 p.m., Carlos Museum, Tate Room: Emory students are invited to participate in a collaborative printmaking project — carving a wooden block from one of Hück's drawings transferred onto a 40 x 30" piece of MDF over the course of the week and hand-printing the image on Friday afternoon. 

• Print Matters, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., Carlos Museum, Ackerman Hall: Enjoy a whiskey, a snack, and conversation with Hück and Curator of Works on Paper Andi McKenzie, then join them for a close look at and discussion of prints by German printmaker Albrecht Dürer and Hück's own work. Space is limited, and registration is required by calling 404-727-6118. Fee: $25 for Carlos Museum members; $35 for nonmembers.

• Workshop for Teachers, Thursday, Feb. 21, 5-7:30 p.m., Carols Museum, Tate Room: Teachers will spend an evening with Hück, explore the history of printmaking and learn studio techniques to use in the classroom. Space is limited, and registration is required by calling 404-727-2363. Fee: $10 for Carlos Museum members; $15 for nonmembers.

• Creativity Conversation, Saturday, Feb. 23, 4 p.m., Carlos Museum, Ackerman Hall: Hück and McKenzie discuss Hück's artistic influences and hicreative enterprise, Evil Prints, where he creates his own work and trains the next generation of remarkable printmakers.

• Affordable Print Sale, Saturday, Feb. 23, 5 p.m., Carlos Museum, Ackerman Hall and Foyer: At Evil Prints, Hück's press in St. Louis, a new generation of "evil heads" work to become master printmakers. Eight members and alumni of Evil Prints will join Hück at Emory for an Evil Prints affordable print sale. Don't miss this opportunity to take home hand-printed art from the "evil heads."