In this world so chock full of the ‘printed image’ in one form or another–read: magazines, online avenues, etc..—one can easily overlook a show of Prints at a local studio/gallery space. “Prints” can be found everywhere, ubiquitous and constant. But one must not confuse a mere printed image with the actual art of Printmaking. In an ideal world we might all have taken a process laden art class in say, ceramic arts, oil painting, or in this case, printmaking. Yet alas, this is not often the case. And so, many of us come to the local printmaking show in a state of ignorance.
Fortunately, Cincinnati’s local printmaking organization,Tiger Lily Press has, in partnership with Brazee Studios, presented a glimpse into the art of printmaking that even an art-gazing beginner can appreciate.
On a sunlit day, this viewer arrived at the Brazee Studios Gallery, just inside the door of the main complex and to the left, to be greeted immediately by information on Tiger Lily Press and the variety of printmaking processes in general involved in crafting a traditionally printed image. In a show such as this, it’s an important move. Not only is there the comprehensive list of processes briefly examined, but also an explanation of who is represented in this current collection of prints:
“The goal of the WAP Residency is to connect Tiger Lily with a local artist who is passionately committed to their work and their artistic community, interested in seeking out possibilities for expanding their current work into printmaking or challenging their existing love of printmaking through a focused residency project. Through their creative drive and work ethic, the artist serves as a role model for the members of Tiger Lily Press and is asked to engage with the greater community to increase awareness of and education in the field of printmaking.”
One can approach the show in any way really but I opted for clockwise. There are only 5 artists represented in this show, with a small handful of works by each artist in this light-filled, intimate space. And yet, there is more than enough to take in as a viewer on a chilly, winter afternoon. Rich Finn (2015/2016) is first, with 2 highly rendered works, Creep 3 and Immigrant (in a ruff).
The draughtsmanship in Finn’s works is readily in the forefront and one is reminded of the recently closed Durer prints show at the Cincinnati Art Museum, from the 1500’s. (see Dec.aeqai for review). Finn’s work is filled with the lovely play of light and dark often affiliated with old-world styled prints. Yet this artist is not all old world:
He has here other work, which is more accidental and abstracted utilizing the process of Suminagashi. This process might be compared to the art of marbleizing paper. We begin to see that printmaking is a world unto itself, with many possible avenues to explore.
Next around the room we are confronted with the work of Jan Thomas (2012/13). There is no statement available to explain the work at hand in detail and so the viewer must read it as presented. The works are ephemeral and familiar. Serene and domestic. There are old-fashioned doll images and pink tulle.
I am not sure if this is work grappling with grief or perhaps merely the passage of time in a universal sense. But it is layered and evocative nonetheless and I am intrigued.
If there is a singular one of the three artists in this show who seems to embody the notion of true process in work as well as concept, it is Brad Thiele. This artist’s project involved a Trans-American bicycle adventure, which would be documented and conveyed through his print work, before and along the way on his adventures as gifts to sponsors and hosts and as an artistic diary of his journey upon return.
This artist’s project created a feeling of infectious all-American adventure seeking, with the art work itself serving as a bit of a souvenir from his travels.
The final two artists in the show embody two of my personal favorite things about the possibilities available in the art of printmaking – vibrant color capacity, versus graphic black and white. In this case, Jack Wood is our color artist and he uses beautifully saturated colors that evoke landscape just post-sunset while maintaining a modern abstraction that’s fresh to the eye.
Jonpaul Smith is our final printmaker in the show as we make our way around the room.
His work is graphic in black and white and reads almost like a long lost language. Where in fact, he has utilized model kits from pre-fabricated doll houses and other such ready-made crafts to create near Brutalist inspired prints. I have to admit to a chuckle when I read the title placards of these works. To take something so ubiquitous and common and render it into these prints takes a leap of the imagination. Smith takes the viewer along with him on this leap and I felt as if I was looking at something from the lost world of Atlantis or something else of that ilk. Not only were these prints imaginative all around, they were clean and extremely well crafted. This can be said for the whole collection.
In my somewhat limited experience with printmaking in my own education and practice and as a viewer of art in general, I find printmakers to be the ultimate seekers of perfection, in craft and in concept. The current collection of works by recent recipients of the Working Artist Program residency at Tiger Lily Press is a fine example of this search for perfection. I am told by the folks at Tiger Lily Press that there is yet another artist to be added to the WAP lineage of work, and that is Renee Harris. So it would seem there will be more to come from this fine local printmaking organization. Stay tuned!