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Honoring a Legacy: Four Decades of Masterful Printmaking with Bruce Wankel

Universal Limited Art Editions honors and celebrates the retirement of Master Printer Bruce Wankel, whose journey at ULAE began in 1982 and has profoundly shaped our history. Bruce's dedication to printmaking and creativity has left an enduring mark on ULAE.

Bruce started as a young enthusiast fresh out of college, eager to delve into the world of printmaking. His tenure, interrupted briefly from 1983 to 1986 for higher education, saw him return with renewed commitment. Over the years, Bruce became not only a trusted confidant of then Director Bill Goldston, but also ULAE's longest-serving employee, showcasing his loyalty and invaluable contributions.

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A gifted lithographer, Bruce Wankel’s skilled hands graced numerous artists’ projects throughout his tenure. From the bold strokes of Stanley Whitney to the intricate editions of Kiki Smith, he lent his expertise to bring their visions to life. Over the years he printed lithographs, woodcuts, and intaglios with artists such as Marina Adams, Sarah Crowner, Amy Cutler, Charline von Heyl, Jasper Johns, Wyatt Kahn, Martin Puryear, James Rosenquist, Susan Rothenberg, James Siena, Richard Tuttle, and Terry Winters.

Yet, it was his mastery of the letter press that truly set him apart. His initial mishap with Juda Rosenberg’s original letter press—a dropped drawer of type—sparked an unexpected fascination. Undeterred, Bruce painstakingly pieced it back together, igniting a lifelong passion for the craft.  He set type for a number of books produced at ULAE including Her Story by Elizabeth Murray and Anne Waldman, Postcards from Trakl by Bill Jensen and John Yau, Endocrinology by Kiki Smith and Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge.  

His role at ULAE extended far beyond the confines of a printmaker. Early on, he was tasked with a whimsical mission—to retrieve Susan Rothenberg’s runaway dog, Algebra, an adventure that spoke volumes of his resourcefulness and commitment to his colleagues.

Fondly known as the “goofy paper guy,” Bruce possessed a unique ability to solve any problem with paper.  He pioneered the art of papermaking, a groundbreaking initiative that birthed a series of transformative projects. The first sheet of paper crafted under his guidance became the canvas for Richard Tuttle’s Ink in Fiber. This venture blossomed into an array of paper pulp endeavors with Tuttle, including the evocative works Other, When Pressure Exceeds Weight, and Parx.  These were followed by a series of monoprints by Carroll Dunham printed on handmade papers – some embossed to look like wood, some combining fibers that appeared as hair.

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Bruce cultivated an environment where creativity flourished, where every challenge became an opportunity, and where collaboration thrived. His legacy is not just in the prints and papers he meticulously crafted but in the relationships nurtured, the stories shared, and the enduring spirit of innovation that continues to define ULAE.