Numbering more than 700 works, the Jim Steg Collection presents the life’s work of New Orleans’ most influential and innovative printmaker, showing his artistic evolution of the course of a career that spanned from WWII through the end of the twentieth century. The collection contains work spanning Steg’s entire career, including collagraphs, charcoal drawings, serigraphs, woodcut prints, sculptures, ink toner drawings, photo-resist etchings, aquatints, color etchings, and many more. Primarily known for his restless innovation and his mastery of nearly every form of printmaking, Steg is recognized as a pioneer and early adopter of the collagraph (or collage intaglio process) and one of the first to see the potential of the photocopier as an artistic tool.
Jim Steg’s art deployed figurative representation in darkly experimental ways, combining abstraction with recognizable imagery in a way that could be both sublime and unsettling. Steg’s work reached the universal and eternal through a deep examination of self – perhaps the most interesting aspect of Steg’s art is how directly he inserted himself into his images. Many prints contain graphic representations of his name, self-portraits, personal identifiers (his MFA diploma, biography clips), and even his own body, which he would press into the plate to create distorted representations of his physical self, as seen in his Seven Attributes series. Outside of these unique “self-portraits,” his work retains a deeply autobiographical quality – Steg described a retrospective held in 1990 as “forty-six years of exploration into technique, into history, and into myself.” In the early 1970s, Steg began working with his signature collage intaglio process, which he used to produce radical postmodern collage prints that stand alongside the work of lauded contemporaries like Robert Rauschenberg. Steg never ceased to push the boundaries of his art, embracing the avant-garde in the latter half of his career to produce prints that firmly establish him as “one of the nation’s most innovative and exciting printmakers.”
Upon his death in 2001, Steg left his archive to his widow, Frances Swigart Steg, who has been diligently cataloging and maintaining his work through the present day – her efforts have assured that Steg’s work will continue to find new audiences over the decades to come. Due to his experimentation with nearly every printmaking process and his steadfast commitment to preserving his work, the academic, artistic, and art-historical value of the Steg collection can scarcely be measured. A gift preserved for posterity, The Jim Steg Collection presents a completely unique opportunity for scholars and lovers of modern art to study the evolution of printmaking over the latter half of the 20th century.
Installation views of “Jim Steg: New Work" at NOMA
Images courtesy of New Orleans Museum of Art.
Photographs by Roman Alokhin, 2018.