North Side art exhibit expands on print-media approaches
“Printwork 2015,” at Artists Image Resource, a printmaking studio on the North Side, features a variety of techniques, ranging from the traditional to the innovative, created by 21 artists from around the country.
One of the most traditional is “Too Close to the Sun” by David Avery of San Francisco. His work is based on a print by the 16th-century Dutch artist Hendrick Goltzius from a series of four circular engravings known as “The Four Disgracers.”
Ostensibly about figures from Greek mythology that had run afoul of the gods, the images were commentaries on the political struggles of Goltzius' day with regard to the Netherlands and Spain, complete with circular captions in questionable Latin.
“I have attempted to continue this idea with reflections on current curses of humanity,” says Avery, whose pursuit of detail is not for the purpose of technical display for its own sake, but rather an attempt to “increase the expressive qualities an image is capable of conveying.”
“Is it small in scale? Yes, just as a keyhole is, until you put your eye to it to see what is hidden behind the door,” Avery says. There you will find influences ranging from Durer and Rabelais up to Max Klinger and the Bros. Quay.
The exhibit has works by other media-investigative artists, such as Robert Howsare of Buckhannon, W.Va., where he is an assistant professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Howsare's studio practice expands upon traditional print media through an interdisciplinary approach that spans drawing, digital media, installation and time-based media.
“My work addresses failure, specifically the glitches occurring within systems,” he says. “Focusing on errors allows me to gain an acute understanding of materials and processes.”
To that end, his print “Phase IV” features an eye-numbing moire pattern in an arrangement of similar hues.
“The moire pattern is a common theme in my work because it simultaneously represents errors in the printing process, as well as the inability of our optical systems to process certain patterns,” Howsare says.
Straddling not only various techniques in art, but also music, three prints by Jennie Wiener of Tavares, Fla., attempt to break down the visual relationship of 19th-century painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler's “Nocturne” paintings to relative musical scores.
“I remember reading that Whistler's ‘Nocturne' paintings could be viewed in the key of C, and I thought about how a landscape might be a musical representation,” Wiener says. “So, after six months of research, I started setting the landscape to music aiming to make three-dimensional pictorial arrangements. So, if the vertical is time and the horizontal, the pitch, I was trying to find the depth, the Z in the equation.”
There are direct pictorial references to three of Whistler's “Nocturnes,” which she transposes into three arrangements of music — “Greensleeves,” “Black and Silvery Melody” and “Pictorial Melodies.”
“I take the horizon of the landscape as the melody and the ground as the accompaniment, so now I have a treble and a base,” she explains. “Each one of the arrangements has three colors or pictorial notes equivalent to a chord. I find the Z by taking the center horizon across all three of Whistler's references. I now have an octave, and it is inverted (counterpoint) from the original references.”
Reaching back in history to bring something fresh and new, Kristin Powers Nowlin of Manhattan, Kan., displays two large woodcuts based on vintage advertising, one a travel brochure and the other a Maxwell House coffee advertisement.
For example, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia: Welcome Home” is based on a travel brochure for Virginia from the 1930s, with modifications that explore America's complicated history with race.
“While it is probably one of the most subtle in this body of work, it all comes down to the fact that the man getting out of the carriage has two families waiting to welcome him home — one in the main house, and one in the slave quarters,” the artist says.
Then there are two unique works by Sofie Elana Hodara of Boston, where she is a professor in graphic design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and at Emmanuel College.
“Untitled” and “Drone Down,” both toner-print transfers on gesso-coated paper, come from an ongoing body of drawings and prints titled “System-and-Process-For,” which re-purposes the iconography used in contemporary patents for new communication and information technologies.
“These works re-envision the patents and allow them to tell a different, more evocative, story about the abstract processes they codify into applied technologies,” Hodara says of what might possibly be the most diverse works in the exhibit by virtue of the toner transfer technique she uses.
Finally, Ricardo Ruiz of Richmond, Va., was given a whole gallery in this exhibit to explore personal symbolisms and storytelling.
“For the work currently on exhibition, I was interested in the ability of symbols to convey language and storytelling,” Ruiz says.
Originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, Ruiz has drawn from his personal heritage of South Texas folklore.
“I am interested in extending that history to others through pictograms,” he says. “I wanted the elements to function as a total thought relating to moments specific to me but also happenings that could be universal.”
The eight semi-abstract works on display incorporate personal objects for self-reflection, whether it be a physical mirror or slides of his father's work, who has been a professional artist for more than 30 years.
Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.