Mark Patsfall started the Clay Street Press in 1981 as a printer of small edition art prints produced in a variety of media—etching, screen printing, lithography and woodcut. Clay Street has worked with published artists from the region, nationally and internationally. Most recently Clay Street has been engaged in printing Jay Bolotin’s latest portfolio of woodcuts with etching, “The Book of Only Enoch”. So, yes, Patsfall and Clay Street are an integral part of the Cincinnati art scene, really, THE art printer in the region.
The Carnegie presents what amounts to a 30 year retrospective of the Cincinnati Portfolios. It’s the rule of 10, with 10 artists per portfolio, every 10 years. 1983-1993-2003 and most recently 2013, all hung on the white walls, in succession, in the main gallery at the Carnegie. Forty prints, some of them knock-outs, some surprisingly dated, all variety of media and combinations thereof, a walk through 30 years of Cincinnati art history. There are many beautiful, really nicely produced prints—usually 3 or 4, sometimes more per portfolio.
Portfolio I feels like a flash-back walk down West 4th Street on a mid-eighties Friday night, seemingly all names from Toni Birckhead’s gallery or Carl Solway’s or someone’s roster. I started to count the dead, or the living, or the moved on and the whatever-happened-tos? Some of these prints are pretty ok: Diana Duncan Holmes and Timothy Riordan’s “Averiery Axies” and Brent Riley’s “The Ohio at Cincinnati” to name but three.
Portfolio II: well here are a few names still active in our fickle scene—Jay Bolotin, Stewart Goldman and Joel Otterson (in some other locale). And yes, this portfolio feels like it is somehow more significant, and, yes, more alive. A classic Bolotin colored woodcut, Otterson’s great “The Mighty Oak of Rock”. Wait: let’s talk about that. It’s a good etching of a full, mature oak tree, the branches crowded with names/logos of great rock bands, with the truly great on the lower branches (Bowie, Stooges, Pistols, etc). The higher you climb in this tree, the more questionable some of the choices become: Cinderella? But, a fun study none-the-less. Oh, speaking of whatever happened to, there is TODT, the artist collective who at one point had an interesting show at the CAC. Maybe they’re collectively creating under some other moniker, or they have just de-collectivated.
Potfolio III goes monochromatic, with 9 of the 10 prints being woodcut or linocut. There is a Thom Shaw, rudimentary yet accomplished. Michelle Red Elk’s hand colored woodcut is worth a ponder: sort of mysterious and symbolic (I won’t interpret or misinterpret here). Mark Fox plexi-glass relief print stands out from the group because it has nice subtle color and a decorative pattern. Maybe it was the post 9/11 world of 2003, the Iraq war and all that gloominess that led to the largely black portfolio.
Portfolio IV, produce in 2013 is decidedly more colorful and upbeat. Multi-colored screenprints, aquatints and lithographs engage the viewer. Yvonne van Eijden’s combination of etching and lithograph is a fine example of her always thoughtful, beautiful work. Kate Kern’s etching and aquatint,
“B Leaf in Heaven” is also great. But, there are several successful prints in this portfolio.
After walking through the show, looking at 40 prints one by one, it is difficult to really review them in some kind of individual way. Surely, some deserve this, some don’t. But, it is pleasant to stand in the center of the room and look at each grouping in a more general way, to get a feel for each portfolio, each decade, the march of time, the effort, the craft, the artists who have moved on or died, become more obscure or more well-known and collectable, artists of this decade, this moment, or names that drift back from some past decade, or, the few that transcend the time stamp. Anyway, Matt Distel, the curator, has done us all a favor in mounting this show of Clay Street’s three plus decades worth of fine printing of three plus decades of Cincinnati art.