Copper and Wood: Roi Partridge and Richard Wagener

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Two California printmakers with lifetime links to the Sierra Nevada are currently on view at Mills College. The landscape prints of Roi Partridge (1888-1984) and Richard Wagener (1944-) are sculptural, full of movement, majestic—yet intimate in size. They have both built their imagery though an accumulation of lines. Partridge has etched his deeply into copper. They appear as rich threads of black ink, fuzzy on the paper and raised. The trunks of his trees twist and curl like spirit woods from Arthur Rackham’s golden age Grimm’s fairy tales. Wagener, on the other hand, is composing with a negative line—a precise, white removal of hard wood from an engraved block. His images are solid and iconic. They also show movement, but it seems frozen and rigid as if there is not a breath of wind and the twists of trunks and thrusts of mountains are sculpted from the turbulence of an earlier time. The work of both men makes one want to make a solitary pilgrimage in appreciation of California’s natural wonders.

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What: Copper and Wood: Roi Partridge and Richard Wagener, 100 Years of Printmaking
Where: Mills College, Olin Library
When: January 25 – March 13, 2015
Ambiance: tiny, black and white library windows into California’s greatest spaces

Connections: Installation Shots


Now that the show is closed, here is a consolidated recap of some of the highlights: a virtual tour of the entire exhibition can be found here. You can click on the crosshairs to move from one location in the gallery to the next and move the cursor left and right to rotate the room.

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A review by Wayne Alan Brenner for the Austin Chronicle can be found here.

And a 230 page large-format book (also available as PDF) with essays from these and the two previous shows’ print projects and a complete catalog of editioned prints from the last six years of working at Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA can be found here.

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I’d like to thank everyone who came out to both the opening and the artist talk, Wally and Rachel, the Casa Montessori kids for their willingness to get ink on their hands, and my sweet parents for letting me turn them temporarily into the shipping and storage branch of the studio.

Emma Hunter: Solve et Coagula

A series of cyanotypes that has stayed with me since seeing them for the first time at the International Print Biennale this summer, Emma Hunter‘s hauntingly beautiful echoes of biomedical imagery, Solve et Coagula, are everything a print portfolio should be.

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The series, part of Stream, a larger collaboration with cardiovascular magnetic resonance reader, Dr Philip Kilner, captures the movement of blood through the human heart in ghostly white strokes in a deep blue ocean-like environment. The images show only the movement of fluid, but the flow shows the boundaries of the developing muscles that are propelling and directing the continuation of life.

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With this project, the UK-based artist, “[invites] audiences to make visual connections between our inner and outer landscapes; the micro and macro, and to consider the biomedical and ecological implications of these connections.”

What: Solve et Coagula
Where: on display at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London
When: permanently
Ambiance: like images of galaxies, complex structures made visible by light and movement

Women in the Art World

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Recently, I’ve noticed several articles about women in the art world circling and resurfacing on the internet. Rachel Stephens, one of the gallery directors at Wally Workman, where I will have a solo show in November, just commented on this series of interviews from artnet published last Tuesday. Wally Workman Gallery was established in 1980 and is woman-owned and directed. An outlier statistically, 67% of the gallery artists are women.

Also this week, I heard from Erin Holscher Almazan, who has curated a two-woman show featuring my work and figurative prints from Carrie Lingscheit which will be open at Gallery 249 in Dayton, Ohio through October 18. She will be meeting a colleague’s “Art and Feminism” class in the gallery for a discussion of the work and asked that I answer a few questions. Since the request and format were so similar to the artnet piece, I thought I would share my thoughts here as well.

What is the significance and relevance of women’s experiences within a patriarchal art world (woman as subject and image maker; domestic space; children) in your work?

I am definitely aware of feminist critiques of the art world (specifically, what I would consider the top 1% of the art world about which so much is published). Many statistics have illustrated the underrepresentation of women as heads of museums and the subjects of solo museum shows, and financially, have shown that the work of women has not approached the highest limits at auction sales. I support the efforts of the people taking action to make the high-end art world a more equal playing field. I think it should be. However, at the moment, I do not live in that world and neither does my work. I am inclined to think that the affordable art world (and prints, even by well-known artists, are often relatively affordable) is a more egalitarian place in every way.

I think that the two most important things for an artist to have are 1) a clear voice and message and 2) the ability to find the audience for that message. It also matters whether or not one needs to be able to make money from one’s art to continue making it. If the answer is yes, then it is even more important that 1 and 2 align. Happily, there is far more to the art world than just the most exclusive New York galleries or auctions by Sotheby’s (though it is still fun to read about them and ogle both the art and the price tags). People appreciate art of many different genres in many different venues. In this larger art world, I am constantly trying to find, maintain, and grow the connection between my voice and the people who respond to it.

Women have consistently been a subject of my work for the last six years. I think there are two main reasons for this: 1) The overall focus of my work is the study of identity. My print projects often deal with this theme, and because I am female, this is a huge part of my own identity and something I wish to explore. 2) I grew up in a family of all sisters. They say that writers should write what they know, and well, I know what it is like to grow up as a girl, and have witnessed closely other girls growing up as girls. With most of the figurative and narrative prints, I am telling stories and showing emotions that I have seen and felt myself.

Does there seem to be a renewed interest in printmaking fueled by women printmakers?

I do know that there are a lot of women printmakers. The majority of the artists in residence at Kala (the facility in which I work) are women. I also think that there is a flourishing interest in printmaking at the moment, so it follows that women are a big part of that flourishing. But from my point of view, this has not been so much a gendered renaissance as a celebration of print in a community that is, in my experience, a very sharing, open, and supportive group of people. I love printmakers. And I have found that printmakers who are men are often of this same ilk. I like that printmakers often operate in groups and collectives, even while working on solitary projects. This environment is conducive to impromptu critiques and shared experimentation with new materials or techniques. There is often a lot of community feeling in a printshop.

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Staff Pick: Forty Fridas

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Blurb.com has named Forty Fridas a staff pick! I’m honored by the endorsement, and proud of this 136-page record of the project. The book includes an essay, reproductions of the complete portfolio, and a final segment on process and test-proofs.

What: Forty Fridas
Where: blurb.com
Ambiance: sleek covers, eggshell pages, and my first ISBN

Four Squared at ARC Gallery

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ARC Gallery‘s annual show in which selected artists present their work in 4×4 grids opened this Saturday. I particularly enjoyed the ceramics of Joseph Kowalczyk, which reminded me of a slightly creepier Where the Wild Things Are. His endearing artist statement sealed the deal:

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What: Four Squared
Where: ARC Gallery
When: August 23 – September 20, 2014
Ambiance: Sixteen mini-shows in sixteen parts

Walton Ford at Paul Kasmin Gallery

By the kind of serendipity that seemed a credit to New York, we walked into Paul Kasmin Gallery to see Walton Ford’s current show just as he started an artist talk. Standing in front of Tigress, one of three large-scale watercolors that fill the first gallery space, he began with a bit of his own history—how his naturalist, narrative watercolors have evolved over time, and critical thoughts on narrative art in general.

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Over the past twenty years, Ford has developed a clear artistic voice by firmly rooting his practice in the well-established canon of natural history illustration and narrative allegory, while also stepping just outside the conventional etiquette of those genres. In the beginning, he said, the process was more formulaic: “take a natural history illustration and subvert it.” Ford tweaks images that we are prepared to see as simply specimens, physically–through scale, and conceptually–through depictions of violence, debauchery, and the juxtaposition of objects and animals that are not usually found in the same picture plane.

But there is more to these works than a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Ford’s compositions are also well-researched. He puts himself into narratives unearthed from medieval bestiaries and arcane fables and permeates his carefully-constructed compositions with the immersive empathy of a method actor. As he is telling us the story behind Tigress, a scene imagined from a Persian manual on kidnapping cubs, my own mother tears up as he describes how the mother tiger is continuously halted in her pursuit. The poachers are instructed to throw glass orbs behind them as they race away on horseback, each one reflecting the mother’s image and confusing her into thinking she sees her babies, until she is lost in an overwhelming accumulation of glass and her own reflections.

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On an entirely gossipy note: Vogue claims that Leonardo DiCaprio might have been the purchaser of this particular piece. And for an even juicier article, the WSJ delivers on anecdotes about the artist—though there’s not too much about his art.

Ford then went on to talk more critically about narrative art, specifically about keeping interpretations open. He used two paintings by Pre-Raphaelite William Holman Hunt as examples of stepping on either side of the very thin line between good and bad narrative. HolmanHunt_AwakeningConscienceThe Awakening Conscience, Ford compared to Norman Rockwell paintings, condemning both for closing all but one door to viewer interpretation. On the other hand, he pointed out that The Scapegoat, by the very same artist, is a masterpiece for communicating emotion, but allowing for endless possibilities when it comes to narrative. Hearing both this and Ford’s own–the real–narrative behind the Tigress, I felt a new appreciation for the piece. Originally, I had thought the crystal balls were stones, or perhaps cannon balls, and even though I wish, knowing the story, they had been painted with reflections and a real sense of light-refracting glass, I think the strength of the piece rests in Ford’s intimacy with his version of the story. It allows him to portray all the details that mysteriously translate an emotion while leaving doors open for the rest of us.

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Another strong ten-foot watercolor in the show was Rhyndacus. This elegantly-composed, satisfyingly enormous, apparently autobiographical allegory was also just plain gorgeous. The press release tells the story behind this one. Here’s a photo of the artist and his work for scale:

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And the admirer inspecting the details for more scale:

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Admittedly, even though I had read the measurements in Taschen’s monograph of Walton Ford, Pancha Tantra (which was my Christmas present this year and is an excellent art book), the scale took me by surprise. It was impressive—especially from far away. Even better, it is also not just size for the sake of size: Ford’s works are often huge because his animals are rendered at a scale of 1:1. The enormous snake by the Rhyndacus river was a 60-foot legend, and tigers and elephants and bears are all huge.

I was glad to be able to see for the first time both the artist and his work. After fantasizing over his book for the last six months, it was a thrill to see the larger-than-life life-sized.

What: Walton Ford: Watercolors
Where: Paul Kasmin Gallery
When: May 1, 2014 – June 21, 2014
Ambiance: Museum of Natural History meets Aesop at an orgy

Upcoming Events: February and March 2014

With Southern Graphics Council’s annual conference taking place in San Francisco this year, Groveland Gallery’s show in Minneapolis, and a three-day workshop in Santa Barbara, February and March are shaping up to be full of the social side of art life.

If you find yourself near one of these venues in the next two months, please stop by!

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Combination Woodcut and Drypoint Workshop
The Rusty Barn, Santa Barbara, CA
February 21-23

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Artist Talk at Carleton College
Northfield, MN
March 7th at 4pm, Boliou 161

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Opening reception for Girls, a two-person show with Duncan Hannah
Groveland Gallery, Minneapolis, MN
March 8th at 2pm

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Intaglio printmaking demo at Kala for the Oakland Museum
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 11th at 12pm

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Opening reception for Altered States, in conjunction with the SGC conference
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 27th from 7-9pm

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Printmaking demo at Kala for the Southern Graphics Council Conference
Kala Studio, Berkeley, CA
March 28th at 12pm

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Altered States artist talks
ARC Gallery, San Francisco, CA
March 29th at 5-7pm

What: printmaking events galore
Where: California and Minnesota
When: February and March 2014
Ambiance: convocation of the last group of Americans to still have use for phone books