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'Printwork 2012' brings together work from top artists

| Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
'On Holiday' by Tom Christison
'Megaman 1' by Michael Hegedus
'Tender Remember by Lisa Bulawsky
'Breeding Ball' by Tom Christison
'The Fool' by Katie Kaplan
'Intruder' by Kay Campbell

An ambitious undertaking, the exhibit “Printwork 2012” at Artists Image Resource on the North Side brings together technically advanced print works by 22 artists from around the country.

The exhibit features nearly 50 works chosen from more than 150 applicants from all over the United States by Nicholas Chambers, the new Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Andy Warhol Museum. It showcases “high-quality methodologies” in contemporary printmaking, says Artists Image Resource co-founder Ian Short.

“There's an established quality about all of these artists,” Short says. “It's clear that there is a high quality of methods and facilities used in making many of the prints on display.”

For example, a $500 Juror's Award went to Tom Christison of Iowa City, Iowa, for his two semi-abstract prints, “Breeding Ball” and “On Holiday.” Both are the result of combining monotype, screenprint and lithographic printing techniques.

Christison says the prints usually start as a monotype and are built up through layers of latex paint screened on. Lithography and monotype runs are then registered and printed on top of the latex paint. “The work progresses much like a painting would, moving from back to front,” he says. This back-to-front application gives the work a very physical, textural appearance, which is not like traditional printmaking.

Christison teaches drawing and printmaking at the University of Iowa, and like a lot of the artists whose works are on display and are arts educators, he has access to various printmaking methods and equipment.

Kay Campbell of Corvallis, Ore., is a professor of art at Oregon State University, where she teaches screen printing. Her print “Intruders” is a screen print that uses foil and image transfer along with traditional screen print.

“The inspiration for my print ‘Intruders' pertains to issues of personal privacy,” Campbell says. The print came about when new neighbors moved in next door and cut down a laurel hedge between her home and theirs. “I, literally, felt that they had become too close for comfort.”

Featuring reproductions of 10 stamped-brass keyhole covers, the piece is a real standout for the bright gold foil she used in making it.

Like Christenson and Campbell's work, Lisa Bulawsky of St. Louis, Mo., shows works that are quite technically advanced.

Bulawsky is the head of the printmaking program in the College of Art at Washington University and directs the school's Island Press. Her two pieces on display, “Tender Remember” and “Useless the Flowers,” are part of her current body of work exploring “the ways that we, personally and culturally, remember both big and small events and people,” she says.

“They are memorial pieces, makeshift and contemplative,” Bulawsky says. “I like to think that my current studio practice connects loss to making, creating a presence in place of an absence.”

Bulawsky says “Tender Remember” started with a portrait of artist Mike Kelley, who died earlier this year. “The portrait was done as a manier noir intaglio print on Japanese paper,” Bulawsky says. “I cut out everything except the eyes and replaced the cut pieces around the face like a wreath of flowers.”

The finished piece is a monoprint, combining intaglio, relief and collage. “I do the straight-up portraits of people as they pass, as a form of private remembrance, and only show the altered pieces like the Mike Kelley, or Etta James, Mauricio Lasansky, Vaclav Havel, etc.,” she says.

Bulawsky says the other piece, “Useless the Flowers,” is a kind of “sketch for a pathetic public monument.” The title comes from the song, “Give Me the Roses While I Live,” written by James Rowe in 1915 and made popular by the Carter Family. “But I learned the song through singing Sacred Harp,” she says, “The same words are set to a tune in the Denson Sacred Harp book.”

“The print is part of an edition of prints — which is unusual for me,” Bulawsky says. “I usually work in monotype, one-of-a-kind prints. It combines etching, intaglio, relief, chine colle and collage.”

Three works by Michael Hegedus of Churchhill — “Megaman 1 115 67/82,” “Megaman 2 129 219/225” and “Kefka 61 613/15” — are worthy of attention for their uniqueness. Featuring video-game characters made from tiny pieces of paper, they are actually small-scale studies.

Made up of small silkscreened pieces of color he calls “cells,” Hegedus says each color cell includes from eight to 14 colors to create the intended value or hue. “This corresponds to the numbers following the title,” he says.

“The images were chosen from past iconic images from the Megaman and Final Fantasy series,” Hegedus says. “I am a passionate retrogamer and vintage video-game collector, and these character sprites were some of my personal favorites.”

In addition to cash awards, one of the artist's was invited to be part of Artists Image Resource's “resident artists project” program and to be included in the group's quarterly exhibition schedule. That artist was Katie Kaplan who lives in Troy Hill on the North Side.

In this exhibit, she displays several large-scale relief prints, carved from linoleum and wood blocks that draw influence from the visual power of religious and esoteric iconography, personal symbols and objects created “for a fantasy world of idealism and escapism,” she says, adding, “These talismans encourage a bright optimistic mindset while pointing out both its beautiful and tragic aspects.”

For example, her piece “The Fool” is an adaptation of a tarot card by the same name. “The imagery of the fool portrays a blind idealism, as the character is stepping off the edge of a cliff, this being the downfall of her optimistic viewpoint,” Kaplan says. “The seven swords hover above her head without piercing, representing the impending problems that arise from escapism. She is bordered by opium poppies, the flowers of dreams, and the train that rolls through double tunnels is the seduction.”

The remaining works on display are equally engaging, either from a conceptual standpoint, or technological bent, making for an interesting exhibit well worth seeking out.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kshaw@tribweb.com.

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