Crown Point began in 1962 as a print workshop, but started publishing prints in 1965 with etching portfolios by Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud. It functioned as both workshop and publisher until 1971, when Kathan Brown formed an alliance with New York publisher Parasol Press. In that year Crown Point Press moved from Brown's Berkeley basement to a loft space in downtown Oakland, and—through Parasol Press—began working with New York artists Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, and others who would later be seen as key members of the Minimal art movement.
In 1977 Crown Point Press shifted its emphasis back to its own publishing program and began working with a group of mainly Conceptual artists, including Vito Acconci, Chris Burden, Tom Marioni, John Cage, and Pat Steir. Artists published by Crown Point since that time represent a wide variety of contemporary art approaches and many of them live in countries other than the United States. Art historian Susan Tallman in her 1996 book, The Contemporary Print, describes Crown Point as "the most instrumental American printshop in the revival of etching as a medium of serious art." From 1982 through 1994 Crown Point added Asian woodcut techniques to its etching program, taking artists to Japan—and later China—to work with craftsmen in those countries.
Crown Point Press celebrated its 25th birthday with an exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1987, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Gallery in Washington, DC own archives of its work. An exhibition, jointly sponsored by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the National Gallery, was held in 1997, Crown Point's 35th year.
Since 1986 Crown Point Press has been located in San Francisco, where it has a gallery and bookstore open to the public and a large etching studio. With a staff of ten, the press currently publishes etchings by five or six invited artists a year. It also holds summer workshops open to all artists.
In 2013 Crown Point Press had an important exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Titled “Yes, No, Maybe: Working at Crown Point Press,” the exhibition was curated by Judith Brodie and Adam Greenhalgh. It featured 125 working proofs and final prints by 25 artists who worked at Crown Point Press from 1972 through 2010.
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