VERGE: Printing from the Periphery April 19 – July 24
Opening reception: Final Friday June, 26, 2015
Venue222, 222 14th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Labeling this exhibit “Verge” opened expectations to all possibilities. However, the distinct links to Tiger Lily Press, DIY Printing, Clay Street Press and Visionaries and Voicees would be enough to inspire more than a suggestion of top-drawer original prints, which would be your correct conclusion. Thirty artists show in a slightly uneven display of work curated by Amy Doran. Area big names share the immense space at Venue222 with fresh printmakers, all of whom are pushing their chosen medium in new directions.
April Foster, recently retired from heading up the printmaking department at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, is moving on with new work quietly morphing into complete abstraction via lacy, subdued photo-litho. This print is then topped with a harsher relief imprint, forming an illusion to a partial curtain or shield to the soft majority of the resultant print. In keeping with the premise behind “Verge” , her recent work fits this intention perfectly.
Most of the prints are manipulated by incorporating unusual material or methods. Joan Effertz has taken basic etching in a small format over , or under, several layers of paper and paint. The image itself is a mundane hotplate surface, while its manner of materials is anything but mundane. The hotplate is then magnified and printed as a monotype to hang at the top of a scroll, while beneath the initial print, a ghost of that print is repeated. The three pieces are then shown together on one wall, their obvious relationship enhanced by the variations.
Four related works by Louann Elliot concentrate on the beauty of basic drawn intaglio line, so graceful that these drawings of lemons would have well stood on their own. Elliot moved them about, decreasing and increasing plate tone, sometimes nearly obliterating the initial line in her quest to make more of them with each state. She has created, in just these four steps, the very secret of abstraction.
Another adventure outside the box was a set of three mixed media structures combining branches, hand lettering, engraving, and linen thread. All were based on quotes from “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver. By expanding her statement into a third dimension with carefully selected branches sewn atop engraved surfaces, Carole Winters‘ more than exceeded the title “Verge.
Not all of the show stepped outside and broke the rules. Some of the artists simply put forth incredibly well-done printmaking with crisp plate marks like those by Mark Patsfall, of Clay Street Gallery in three street scenes. The journal type collection based on Theresa Gates Kuhr’s memories of her recent work trip to Grafikwerkstatt, Dresden, Germany in twelve double-sided prints of her impressions, was the only one of its format, as was Saad Ghosn’s white-line woodcut. Ghosn cuts highly narrative pieces which tell tales in the universal language of art. His large sharply incised board prints up cleaner than ink drawing, and tells of a child, sleeping safely in his bedroom, with a side panel, perhaps the real world around him, where cruelty progresses unchecked, bodies strewn and pointed triangles threatening everything.
With this many artists, it’s not practical to comment on each, but don’t miss Rick Finn’s “Creep”, “Aunt Mitzi’s Curtains” by artist in residence at Tiger Lily, Jonpaul Smith, and the very strong woodcut “Expectations” by Joe Bohacke.
Amy Doran’s lone print was simply a joy to explore. It’s poly-litho lines pulled in the viewer’s eye like a magnet, and, while undeniably abstract, it held the story of its inception strongly enough that it demanded investigation. “Marius”, the print and the subject, a young giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo, reeks of justifiable outrage. His story can be seen on YouTube, but in brief, Marius was bred by the zoo, which, when he was 2 years old, decided that his genes were just too ordinary to be of any value. He was brutally euthanized on screen and butchered while the video cameras rolled and a crowd watched horrified. He was then fed to the lions. As often happens, the emotion of the act seems to inhabit the art, even though no real action or image is recognizable.
”Verge” does suffer somewhat from it an inconstant level of quality. But more than that, it’s chief detriment is location. Venue222 is an event establishment. It is open only by appointment and for events taking place. The walls are variegated aging brick, a great
decorating background, but one which doesn’t allow the intricacies of printmaking to shout about their qualities. Were it to be moved, as is, to a gallery with less distraction, so much more would have made itself known.