Monday, March 1, 2010

"A Nice Place To Visit"

Printmaking is a chameleon art form, always changing its spots. This month a polished selection of provocative prints goes on view in the recently renovated Davis Gallery of Houghton House on the campus of Hobart William & Smith College in Geneva, New York. A place to come and meditate, to experience new art; but what are all those weeds growing up and around the windows and doors?

Nick Ruth ( an artist on the faculty at Hobart ) is the guiding light and curator for "Nice Place To Visit": Printmaking and the Anxious Landscape; he describes Kim Beck's vinyl leaves encircling the doors, as part of nature's revenge, a plant's protest lodged against a local architecture of the gallery space. At least in this instance weeds dominate and the art takes control. Weeds = Art.

A statement of purpose is to explore some of printmaking's new territory where artists make their home ( provisional as that may be ). In the wake of devastating earthquakes, tidal waves and global warming, where you live does matter. At the entrance you encounter Erik Waterkotte's "Over the Drained Lake", 2007. Extending the range of how a print is made (digital, relief, etching, and chine-colle) it is fun to speculate on which technique makes which mark on the paper. What it all adds up to is an image of a battlefield, tiny dark blots on red monuments. The artist writes: "I am compelled by imagery of disaster, broken architecture, voids of space and atmosphere that distort a once decipherable place".

Each of the nine artists presented here has a distinct vision, yet some of the images look remarkably cool and analytical: Kevin Haas' Trent Avenue lithographs are muffled in gray and black - solitary without giving away their location and Sean Morrisey keeps the geometry pure but lets the space collide and dematerialize, as if contemporary building materials suddenly became translucent and started to dance.

Warming up one corner of the exhibition are a suite of Nick Ruth's relief prints with some hot color and a repeating ball motif that is present in each frame. In "Tempest, 2009" we have a red ( explosive ) shower falling into a green cup, symbolic of a simple system where, as Nick says, "our natural selves battle our rational selves".

If seeing is believing, do you know what you are looking at when you see Mitch Mitchell's photo gravure prints? A landscape without horizon results in space without scale, and then there is the bubbling black ooze that is so disturbing. Artists are dreamers, but Mitch Mitchell's art is real and a result of visiting the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada to stage the miniature tableaux he
captures in a gorgeous series of otherworldly images.

Yoonmi Nam contributes lithographs of structures once built and now demolished. This could be a recipe for a transitional existence which is a statement made more poignant in Erika Walker's etchings of finely drawn gears and dials succumbing to primordial forces.

Finally, four of my recent hybrid prints round out a show of places where the unexpected event occurs with greater regularity. There are few images of humanity directly presented here but the effects of human enterprise is all over this exhibit. I think we are all a bit terrified about what we have wrought on this planet.

Also on view is a fine small installation of book art by Sarah Bryant and Big Jump Press.
Gallery Hours are Monday thru Friday, 9-5, and Saturday 1-5