Graphic Arts Workshop and Print Club of Rochester

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On view in the LAB space in conjunction with the Under Pressure show, a recent collaboration between Graphic Arts Workshop and the Print Club of Rochester presented a diverse group of prints in various techniques from the West and East Coast associations.

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Two of my favorite prints from the Graphic Arts Workshop happened also to be two of the smallest. Power Moiré by Anthony Ryan (above left) and Three of Spades by Mariko Jesse (above right) were both tiny prints floating in a clean expanse of paper frame. Ryan’s work pulls the viewer close and in, while Jesse’s card-like plate had a milkiness to it that made me want to pick it up off the paper.

From the Print Club of Rochester, I was drawn to two pieces for their chromatic cleanliness. Treasure Sun Set by Carol Aquilano is a color reduction woodcut at its boldest, with all the transparency and sticky-edged carving marks of relief as expressive medium, while Katherine Baca-Bielinis’s Philadelphia Charm gives an impressionistic glimpse of a column, an archway and the beginning of an ornate ceiling. It’s as if we are watching these forms develop and vanish as they pass in and out of view – that the viewer might even be necessary to their existence.

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Finally, a conceptual piece from Adam Werth, president of the Print Club of Rochester. The materials description on the information panel reads: non-variable data, inkjet, collage. It’s a bit of a troll piece as well since the portfolio format dictates that it must stay on top of the print stack for the creases not to flatten or warp the other prints. I currently have this work in my studio – a good reminder on several levels. The title: 😉.

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What: Graphic Arts Workshop and Print Club of Rochester Trade Portfolio
Where: Rochester Contemporary, Rochester NY
When: September 2 – 25, 2016
Ambiance: the unbound bounty of bi-coastal brotherhoods

Facing History at the Victoria & Albert Museum

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Eleven of the Forty Fridas are currently on view at the V&A in London as part of the Facing History exhibit curated by Gill Saunders. The show displays 80 prints and photographs from the museum’s collection that “explore a variety of artists’ responses to the idea of portraiture over the last 20 years.”

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The Guardian review picks up on my abiding interest in games

Yet portraiture is also a masquerade, a game. Artists have been playing with poses ever since the Renaissance. Today Cindy Sherman does it, as does Ellen Heck, who in her coloured woodcuts gets her friends to pose as Frida Kahlo. They all become Frida for a day. But who is Frida? She herself joins in the game, posing as Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, who now sports that unmistakable thick monobrow.

Portraiture, when you start enjoying its formality and its awkwardness, turns out to be an art of infinite possibility. This a pleasing glimpse of the past’s future.

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Gill Saunders, Senior Curator of Prints, writes more about her interest in the Fridas for this show in Art in Print. She will be giving a Lunchtime Lecture about Facing History on March 2, 2016. Many thanks to Jenny Robinson for taking these installation shots.

What: Facing History: Contemporary Portraiture
Where: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
When: July 27, 2015 – April 24, 2016
Ambiance: to steal the Guardian’s last line – a pleasing glimpse of the past’s future

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.

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

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

Variations at Wally Workman

Today is the last day of Variations at Wally Workman.  It has been a great month, and I’ve been both uplifted and humbled by the support of the Austin art community.  Thank you to everyone who went to see the show, and Wally and Rachel for hosting the work.  Also, many thanks to all of the wonderful models who shared their Frida selves with me – most of your “thank you” prints were mailed this week, so you should be receiving them any day now.  Here are a few links to published reviews of the show:

The Chronicle 1
The Austin-American Statesman
The Chronicle 2
The Austin Eavesdropper
Aether Magazine

It was a blast! Now, back the old printing press…

What: Variations
Where: Wally Workman Gallery
When: June 1-30, 2012
Ambiance: to pick my favorite adjectives from the Chronicle, “badass” and “sublime”

In the Aether

Catherine Zinser, the print room manager at the Blanton Museum of Art wrote this piece on the upcoming Variations show at Wally Workman.  This is the first multi-page article about my work to be published, and it was a lot of fun for me to read Catherine’s interpretation of the new series.  She also explains several printmaking terms and techniques that are helpful to understanding many of the pieces in the show.  Thanks to Catherine for writing, and Rachel Haggerty for organizing this feature!

What: Ellen Heck: Printing Character, by Catherine Zinser
Where: Aether Magazine
When: Spring/Summer 2012
Ambiance: you ladies are making me look good…