11e Biennale de Gravure: Dérive(s)

The 11th Biennale de Gravure opens this Friday at La Boverie in Liège, Belgium. The theme of the exhibition cycle is “Dérive(s)” or “Drift(s),” which references the “Dérivation” canal that meets the Meuse river to form the peninsula on which the museum is located. While researching the concept/translation, I was seduced by an extension of the word put forth by Guy Debord describing “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances” in which you allow yourself to “drift” (usually through an urban landscape) without a planned destination. It is a way of discovering the world often used while traveling, moving to a new place, or following toddlers all of which I have enjoyed doing in the past two years.

While this research impacted choices for color wheels I was painting late summer of last year (particularly Carolina Color Wheels: Drift), the prints in this show are several portraits from the Fascinators series (2016) as well as selections from Lonely Hearts (2014) – both of which take on “drift” from a more psychological angle.

Here is a complete list of my fellow printmakers whose work will be on view during the biennial. The opening and ceremony will take place Friday March 17th at 7pm.

What: 11e Biennale de Gravure: Dérive(s)
Where: La Boverie, Liège, Belgium
When: March 17 – May 14, 2017
Ambiance: This building makes me want to check a coat and open a journal.

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Elliptical Thinking

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Elliptical Thinking opened this Saturday at Rockport Center for the Arts with an artist talk, opening reception, and the official beginning of a six week residency. Taylor Hendrix, director of visual arts, led the question/answer style talk beginning with a poem by Wendell Berry:

Traveling at Home.

Even in a country you know by heart
it’s hard to go the same way twice.
The life of the going changes.
The chances change and make a new way.
Any tree or stone or bird
can be the bud of a new direction. The
natural correction is to make intent
of accident. To get back before dark
is the art of going.

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We used the poem to inspire thoughts about repetitive practices and making room for chance in the art process. On view are several new color wheel sets created this year in North Carolina and the “sketchbucket” models suspended in a cascade near the opening of the garden gallery. I will be demonstrating the printing process for the next few weeks here on the Art Center’s press, a custom model donated by the well-known Rockport native artist Al Barnes.

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What: Elliptical Thinking – residency and exhibition
Where: Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport, Texas
When: October 15 – November 19, 2016
Ambiance: coastal accumulation of consideration and repetition

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Under Pressure at Rochester Contemporary

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Sponsored by the Print Club of Rochester, Under Pressure opened this weekend at Rochester Contemporary. Scale, in its full spectrum, was a choice made apparent by the collection of work, from Heather Swenson’s card-sized screenprint series to Jenny Robinson’s larger architectural intaglios. (below)

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Limited palette also played a strong role in the overall feel of the exhibition. Heather’s collections of in-progress inquiries are fresh and conscientiously optimistic. I’ve been in love with her work since jurying the club’s Echoes of the Past show this past spring. Here are the first 35 cards in her year-long weekly-editioned series The Tiny Print Project with close-ups of week 12 and week 29 (my personal favorite). The space left open on the bottom shelf will allow her to add the three prints she’ll create during the weeks the exhibition is on view:

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Heather’s work manages to be clear-eyed and confusing, familiar and foreign at the same time. Every one of her pieces seems to be a short story prompt or at least an invitation to daydream. In week 29, I imagine a tiny occupant in each of these aquarium-like balconies and a small stairwell in between, the two inhabitants meeting there sometimes to take refuge in the windowless retreat. Perhaps each only ever looks out of his or her one designated window and describes the view to the other in that enclosed space between. It also looks a bit like a Lego piece, like a giant child could pick it up and click it into place. Here’s an angled view of one of her larger screenprints:

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My own palette is not dissimilar from Heather’s. We both gravitate towards teals and grays, fresh sands, and a guarded, but intentional use of vibrant accents. Moderation in all things – including moderation. For this installation, I chose two Carolina Color Wheels that would hang well with a new series of portraits from 2016, Fascinators, a portfolio of girls wearing paradoxical or mathematical topographic shapes as hats.

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I’ve written a bit about the ongoing Color Wheels series here. While the process is still the same, the most recent abstract panel groupings have focused more intentionally on trying to describe consciousness, emergentism, and linked thought-related processes. Similarly, the Möbius strip hats worn by the girls in the portrait series are also looking at and attempting to visually solidify thought processes.

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Overall, four types of printmaking are highlighted in this show. April Vollmer‘s work brings Western iconography to hieroglyphic narrative woodcut scrolls. Jenny Robinson‘s large-scale architectural intaglios combine collagraph with monoprint. Heather Swenson is showing several screenprinted still lifes inspired by collage. And finally, my Fascinators portraits are each combinations of woodcut and drypoint, while the Carolina Color Wheels mix media with drypoint on copper.

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What: Under Pressure: Redefining the Multiple
Where: Rochester Contemporary, Rochester NY
When: September 2 – 25, 2016
Ambiance: space in which conscientiously compressed areas of space breathe

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

Zorn at the Legion of Honor: beautiful people

Just in the nick of time, we made it to the Anders Zorn show at the Legion of Honor. It was worth it for the watercolors alone, which were luminous and lifelike – perfectly balanced on the tension-filled point between being overworked or prettily unfinished.

I thought Castles in the Air was particularly impressive for the face in medium-shadow, the glowing coral fingertips, and the incandescent parasol.

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Another of my favorites was a larger oil in a limited orange and purple palette, The Sisters Schwartz. It sticks in my mind both because of its caption, which stated that Zorn found the sisters – if I remember correctly, “thoroughly uninteresting” and was therefore pleasantly surprised that the painting could have come out so well, and because of the five odd purple brush punches in the lower right corner. It’s almost as if Zorn knew something had to be there for the composition to work, but just couldn’t stand another minute in the room.

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What: Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter
Where: Legion of Honor, San Francisco
When: November 9, 2013 – February 2, 2014
Ambiance: everyday beauty, from a time when everyday beauty included hats and parasols

Hockney at the de Young: heightened green

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The first day of sustained rain we’ve had in months was the day nif and I went to see the Hockney exhibit.  The pavilion between the Academy of Sciences and the de Young was a splashing silver mess and completely abandoned.  Guards at the museum doors were helping people inside with a sense of urgency and everyone seemed to be filled with the excitement that comes from long-inexperienced weather events.

The exhibit began with an almost overpowering deluge of color.  The gallery walls were dark chocolate brown and many of the recent Hockney landscapes (they opened with several series of large oils and bright portraits) seemed to glow internally.  I particularly liked the palette of Winter Tunnel with Snow (below), which filled the bottom right corner of a grid of six large landscapes.

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In reproduction, Hockney’s portraits hold up very well, but the size and depth of the landscapes make them more powerful in real life.  I had always been a bit suspicious that the colors might be a little too out-of-the-tube – but they absolutely were not.  The palettes are intense, but in no way store-bought and all well-considered.

There were excellent portraits as well.  The luminous series of careful pencil drawings after Ingres with a camera lucida were displayed across from the “Great Wall” of art history.  Hockney writes extensively on this series in his book, Secret Knowledge.

Heck_HockneyTatePosterI’ve always loved Hockney’s portraits.  Part of this love might come from the poster of his show at the Tate in 1980 that has been on a wall in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember.  Later, I discovered it featured one of his many portraits of Celia, but in my early years, I had always suspected that it was supposed to be a portrait of my mother.

The exhibition is huge – over 300 works, and while one of the biggest topics of discussion has been Hockney’s embracing of digital media (particularly iPad drawings that are blown-up, printed, and mounted in a room all their own), what most inspired me was his freedom to try, to work prolifically (nearly everything has been done in the last few years), and his ability to maintain and develop his voice over a lifetime without being trapped into one particular style.

When we emerged from the exhibition, the rain had nearly stopped, and everything seemed so weirdly green.  At first, I wondered if Hockney’s color vibrancy had somehow skewed my vision, but I think the shellac of long-absent rain added to the effect.  Regardless, it gave me a new understanding of the word ‘saturation.’

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What: David Hockney, A Bigger Exhibition
Where: de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
When: October 26th, 2013 – January 20th, 2014
Ambiance: saturated abundance, heightened green

“The Edition and the Open Window” in CMA’s Gallery One

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From now through April 2014, The Edition and the Open Window will be on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Gallery One as part of the show Artists at Work.  It will also be part of their interactive app, ArtLens, with a curator’s statement and step-by-step look behind the scenes at the four woodcuts that make up the print.

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The Edition and the Open Window is part of the Place and Process series of prints, each of which was modeled after a printmaker working in the Kala studio with me in 2011 and 2012.

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The museum’s Gallery One has a forty foot multi-touch microtile screen that displays images of over 3,500 objects from the museum’s permanent collection.  You can use it to research and plan your tour of the galleries by dragging your favorite works to an iPad.  They also have several other interactive consoles where you can interact with the art in completely new ways.

You can also use the wall to find another of my prints in the CMA’s collection: The Robe, from the Plus a Century Portfolio.

What: The Edition and the Open Window at CMA’s Gallery One
Where: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
When: October 2013 – April 2014
Ambiance: The future meets the past and they have a rockstar love child.

The Robe at the Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art has recently purchased The Robe for their permanent collection.

I’m so happy that a piece from the Plus A Century portfolio – so influenced by Cassatt’s color etchings – will be housed permanently alongside the masterworks to which it alludes. And, for anyone in the Cleveland area, the museum will be exhibiting Mary Cassatt and the Feminine Ideal in 19th Century Paris in the prints and drawings gallery from October 14th, 2012 – January 20th, 2013. Stop by and be amazed!

What: The Robe
Where : The Cleveland Museum of Art
When: hopefully for a very long time
Ambiance: a real, no-kidding, serious art museum where you might need to wear white gloves…but haven’t you been wanting to wear white gloves recently?

Mapplethorpe at San Jose Museum of Art

Through June 5, square black and white Mapplethorpe portraits are on display in three large rooms of the San Jose Museum of Art. It was not actually the reason for our going to the museum, but was definitely what we took away from the event. After three rooms and hundreds of tidily-framed prints of influential people from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the museum has set up a small studio where you, the inspired museum-goer, can be both the photographer and photographed. Here we are, along with Mapplethorpe’s Patti Smith and Louise Nevelson.

Event: Robert Mapplethorpe Portraits
Venue: San Jose Museum of Art
Dates:January 29 – June 5, 2011
Basically: perfect culture stop on a carefree San Jose weekend, be overwhelmed by modestly-sized photographs from the analog age

California in Relief

The Hearst Art Gallery at St. Mary’s College is currently exhibiting California in Relief: A History in Wood and Linocut Prints, which we were able to visit this weekend. The relief prints are displayed chronologically (mostly…there are some confusing corners) and begin in the late 19th century with some beautiful woodcuts with eastern influences. There is a Gustave Baumann print, Redwoods. It’s not my favorite of his, but fun to see the oatmeal paper and heart-in-the-hand up close.My favorite by far was a Linda Lee Boyd print, Pouring Concrete III which is an ode to everything that the woodcut can provide – the fine grain on the man’s face and shirt lifted subtly with an electric engraver set against the stark flatness of a thickly inked brayer.

The curators also did an excellent job with the wall colors; deep, rich hues behind the large black and white woodcuts from the 60s enlivened what could have been a very bland experience.
Worth the trip for a half-lit walk through history…

Show: California in Relief: A History in Wood and Linocut Prints
Venue: Hearst Art Gallery, St. Mary’s College of California
Dates: July 25 – September 20, 2009
Ambiance: library-esque gallery nestled in Spanish mission