Monday, January 21, 2013

Welcome to Their World

Welcome to Their World
By Tom Wachunas

    “The power of the press belongs to those who can operate one.” – a sign in the printmaking studio of Ruthann Godollei at Macalester College, Minnesota -

    EXHIBITION: Printivale! At Translations Art Gallery, THROUGH JANUARY 26, 331 Cleveland Avenue NW, downtown Canton, Ohio. Viewing hours are Wednesday, Noon to 9 p.m., Thursday – Saturday Noon to 5 p.m.

    This just in, hot off the presses: Printmaking is definitely making an impression in these parts. If you’ve yet to see Printivale! at Translations, there’s still four days (Jan. 23 – 26) to view it. My sincere apologies for not getting around to commenting on the exhibit before this.

   You may or may not remember New Hampshire artist Erin Sweeney from her collaborative show here with Marietta artist Bobby Rosenstock back in February, 2011, when the gallery was known as Anderson Creative. Here’s a link to my review of that exhibit because I think much of it is relevant to this one as well:
   Curated by Erin Sweeney, Printivale! presents works by 22 printmakers (including her own work as well as that of Rosenstock) from around the U.S. and Ireland. Most impressive about the show is its depth of styles, diversity of subject matter, and technical virtuosity.

    Speaking of technical virtuosity, Mr. Rosenstock continues to ply the ancient and painstaking practice of woodblock printing with a thrilling level of masterful workmanship, as demonstrated in his unusually large (and aptly titled) Wondrous Wonder, and the multi-colored Unfathomable Tangle. Similarly meticulous is Building the Perfect Worm Hole by Rebecca Gilbert, with its unframed representational images cut out and mounted on the wall, somewhat like a relief sculpture. And Christopher Baker’s letterpress printed red dice (simple but far from simplistic) is a mesmerizing exercise in decorative, variable patterns. A-mazing.

    There are some notably captivating works here in the realm of social and/or political commentary. Among them, the hand- embellished woodcut, Rockwell’s Freedom from Want, by Chad Creighton, is a startling if not humorous appropriation of Norman Rockwell’s iconic Thanksgiving gathering. Creighton’s feasting family members all wear turkey face masks. Another appropriation of a sort is Amanda Benton’s digitally printed spoof, Benton’s Bazarro.  Convincing in its slick commercial look (all written, designed and edited by Benton), it’s a deliciously vicious parody of women’s fashion magazines. Maps, by Amos Paul Kennedy, superimposes letterpress text on a found map of Alabama. The word  RACISM is diagonally emblazoned in red across the middle of the map, along with LUKE 6:31 horizontally in black. Call it a boldly interactive message piece to the extent you don’t forget to look up the Scripture citation.
    In short, this exhibit is a stunning confluence of traditional and non-traditional printmaking approaches and formats – a fresh melding of centuries-old methods and materials with expanded contemporary applications. Beyond that, it is compelling evidence of Translation Gallery’s vital and continuing commitment to showcasing fresh artistic visions that are as intelligent and evocative as they are entertaining.

PHOTOS, courtesy Craig Joseph/Translations Gallery: (from top) Wondrous Wonder by Bobby Rosenstock; Rockwell’s Freedom from Want, by Chad Creighton; Building the Perfect Worm Hole, by Rebecca Gilbert

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