Monday, July 4, 2016

A Print Collector and the Hokes Archive

Beauvais Lyons, lithograph, "Female North American
Raccoon Crow"

"Conceivably Plausible"
a two person show featuring
Beauvais Lyons and Jennifer Scheuer
The Ink Shop
330 East State Street at the CSMA Building
Ithaca, New York

I'm back in Ithaca, New York, where one can go around on Gallery Night, on a Friday in July, and see a wonderful exhibition that just opened at The Ink Shop at 330 East State Street in the CSMA Building on the second floor.  The gallery show is a two-person affair with artists Beauvais Lyons from the University of Tennessee and Jennifer Scheuer from Cornell University.  If you are not familiar with either artist, this is an opportunity to get to know two very creative printmakers, whose artwork looks to history and science with a sly glint in their eye.

Beauvais Lyons, lithograph, "Fresco Fragments Depicting
Aazzudian Ball Players"

If you have read my blog before, you may know that for many years I made my living as an artist and illustrator - making representations of natural subjects for publishers of books and magazines ( The Total Book of Houseplants, Horticulture Magazine, Birds Do The Strangest Things, etc. ).  So, when I opened the door to their new show at The Ink Shop - I was surprised to see prints of flowers and animals that had a real historical look without actually being very old.  As for Beauvais Lyons - his images are part of a deliberate deception to get you to think and look a little bit deeper.

His take on his artistic subject is a sort of parody of what I used to make my living doing, but his effort to make something "Conceivably Plausible" has a bit of magic ( sleight of hand ) along with some fun, and this gives him a rich vein to work in especially with his use of lithography - heavily based in a realist drawing style.  Jennifer Scheuer works in Ithaca at her images ( she is an Ink Shop member, and Cornell University employee ) and her prints look like plates from the old books one could collect ( I would have loved to buy her fern image at the entrance to her part of the show but it was not for sale ).  Jennifer studied with Beauvais Lyons so they seem to be on the same page when it comes to the studied quality of their image making.

An image from the Association for Creative Zoology

The thing about humor in fine art - if I can backtrack a bit here - is that a laugh can put you in a good mood, or it can detract from what the serious artist has to say.  See the contradiction? - serious artist - funny artwork, and the viewer can get swept up in the joke and loose the perception of how the artist brings you to this point.

I can see the temptation in Beauvais Lyons' work, as I said - having worked on the natural subjects myself, I always felt the need for some humor to give the academic stress of zoology a more human perspective.  It should be said, that when you are at the show, and see the lithograph of the adult Raccoon Crow above at the top of this blog, it only takes a second to see how absurd the image is.  There is a tradition of farce in the theatre, but not so much in the fine arts of painting and sculpture.  I guess that in modernist terms the art object is what it is, and what I see here is an art that is trying to reduce academic constraints but in the process becoming just as academic in the parody.

There is another question lurking here, and it is at what point is this art a pure illustration and does that matter?  Over the recent history of contemporary art, maybe there is less open hostility to illustration as an art than there was say forty or fifty years ago.  Maybe  it is a distinction without a difference, and art is art, you know it when you see it.

Jennifer Scheuer

Getting back to the show at The Ink Shop, Jennifer Scheuer is also experimenting with 3D printing ( there are two rows of what look like teeth in the first room ) and she also works with older techniques like photogravure.  In a series of sepia toned monotypes we get some fine small images of ginseng roots, which are treasured for the medicinal values.  When I saw them I thought that Jennifer should meet Jappie King Black ( who I reviewed a couple of weeks back ) and the two of them would have something in common - especially because of Ms. Black's root like sculptures she has on display at The Dyer Art Center.  Jennifer is a bit more direct in her art than Beauvais Lyons, and she gives her art a look from the past that I hope doesn't distract from the art she has made.

Jennifer Scheuer, trace monotype

With  the previous discussion aside, the art in this show is considerable, and it highlights the aims and goals of these working artists today.  To give your art a deliberate archaic look - does that help in attracting an audience for what you want to say?  It might, and maybe it also brings up the question of what the viewer expects from an art show these days.  One can expect to be challenged in the best sense, and also not to be bored in the worst case.  Ideally a great art show leaves the viewer with a distinct impression and these two printmakers certainly do that.

Beauvais Lyons on left, Jennifer Schemer,  on right
The Ink Shop 
July 28th, 2016
Ithaca , New York