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