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I Love You (Love Letters)

 

Japanese Color Screenprint

I Love You (Love Letters)

by Ay-O, 1974

Print 1 from the series <Then, Mr. Ay-o got drunk by the Rainbow> <Very popular story> <Event for prints> <Rainbow glass>


IHL Cat. #1472

About This Print

I Love You (Love Letter), a silkscreen print with an edition size of 11,111 prints, was the result of discussions between Ay-O, Tokuzo Okabe (founder of the first silkscreen printing studio in Japan), gallery owner Fujio Watanuki and others about expanding the appeal of prints to wider audience and, particularly, a younger audience.  Ay-O suggested adapting his 1973 lithograph Love Letter [shown below] for this purpose and in 1974, as described below, the full run of 11,111 prints was completed.

The Original Lithograph
Source: AY-O’s Rainbow Prints Catalogue Raisonne 1954-1979, Sadajirō Kubo, Sohbun-sha, p. 112-113.
In discussing the original 1973 lithograph “Love letter(s)” Ay-O states:
At that time I had just returned from a tour of Mexico.  I had bought a picture postcard as the market in Oaxaca, a town famous for its silver craft.  It showed a man dressed-up in the continental fashion and holding a bouquet, ready to go courting a lady.  I liked the picture, so back in New York I enlarged it into 12 drawings of different sizes.   I used six of them, together with three blocks bearing the words “I love you” in the three primary colors, for the “Love Letter”, a lithograph of nine-block printings…. I remember mailing the picture postcard I bought at Oaxaca to President Kennedy for his birthday.

 

The Silkscreened Edition
Source: AY-O’s Rainbow Prints Catalogue Raisonne 1954-1979, Sadajirō Kubo, Sohbun-sha, p. 146.

One day in 1974 [Tokuzo] Okabe came to Kiyose with Fujio Watanuki and a group of five or six young people.  They discussed printing and selling prints by young artists that would appeal to the younger set, to be handled through a modern print center.  I heartily endorsed the idea and suggested that they print a large-number edition so that the price of a print could be lowered.  This meant that the prints should be sold not on the merit of the artist’s name but on the appealing subject matter of the print itself.  The discussion advanced by leaps and bounds, and two or three weeks later we had arrived at the idea of printing an edition of 11,111 copies.  The price was to be one or two thousand yen per print. I provided my lithograph work No. 247, “Love letter”, which I made in Nova Scotia. Everyone approved of this selection, and Okabe printed up No. 267, “Love Letter(s)”, as a silk screen print.

It is no longer clear just who thought up the idea of an edition of 11,111 copies.  I remember saying [to] myself that as probably no one had as yet printed up more than 10,000 copies of a work, I should like to go just a little over that figure.  I seem to have heard from someone that Mr. [Sadajiro] Kubo heard of this comment of mine and suggested the 11,111 figure, but no one seems to remember for sure.  At any rate, the number appealed to me immediately.  It may be a romantic bit of witticism, but it is also a bit of fantasy that entices man to enjoy life.  I thought it would be fun if the signing and numbering of the 11,111 prints could all be done in a single day, so one day about two or three days before my departure for New York I enlisted to aid of one woman and two men and we got down to work, our fingers protected by Bandaids.  About 16 hours later we finished the chore and shook hands an embraced each other in joy.

Comments of Sadajiro Kubo - The Publisher of the Silkscreen Print

Note: Young painters and printmakers had a guardian angel in the critic Sadajiro Kubo, who extended the idea of "collectors' club" — a group of collectors who would contract artists to regularly provide works for purchase — as a vehicle to financially support emerging artists. 

When I entered the art world in 1974, Ay-O’s “I love you (Love Letters)” was the first edition of prints I published. This was an outrageous undertaking at an edition of 11,111 copies, reflecting our ambition to become no. 1 in the world, at least in terms of silkscreen prints. The completed sheets were delivered by truck to Ay-O’s atelier, where the artist indulged in a 16-hour marathon signing session. We both were young! Ay-O’s works can be indentified in an instant by its rainbow colors, and this is also where they derive their intense originality from.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #1472
 Title (description)
 I Love You (Love Letters)
 Series  
 Artist 
 Ay-O (b. 1931)
 Signature 
Ay-O (pencil lower right)
 Seal  
 Publication Date  1974
 Edition  1,634/11,111
 Publisher  Gendai Hanga Center 現代版画センター
 Printer  
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - several spots of foxing primarily bottom left margin and stain in left margin
 Miscellaneous
 Genre  modern print - silkscreen
 Format  
 H x W Paper  24 x 17 3/8 in. (61 x 44.1 cm)
 H x W Image 20 1/2 x 13 in. (52.1 x 33 cm)
 Collections This Print  The British Museum 1986,0321,0.71
 Reference Literature  AY-O’s Rainbow Prints Catalogue Raisonne 1954-1979, Sadajirō Kubo, Sohbun-sha, p. 112-113, cat. no. 267.
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