Tag Archives: American

Art Now: Printmaking

I Dreamed I Could Fly,  by Art Werger

It’s a challenge to write about the current exhibit Art Now: Printmaking, installed in Gallery 117 of the Ann Arbor Art Center, not because there is so little to say but because there is so much. Art Now is the third in a series of large group shows of artworks sorted by media. No less ambitious than the first two (devoted to painting and photography), Art Now: Printmaking shows us how fine art printing in all its variety stands at the busy crossroads of traditional media and advancing technology.

Juror Tyanna Buie, an accomplished printmaker in her own right, has selected artworks by 86 artists from all over the country that describe the ways in which the methods of printmaking can be stretched to their outer limits and combined  with other techniques such as collage, painting, drawing and photography, to name only a few.

Mud Philosophy by H. Schenck

Traditional printmaking is a craft as well as an art. The process is exacting and rewards methodical attention to draftsmanship, registration, consistency– and there is no shortage here of artists well qualified to work within the constraints of the media. I especially liked many of these traditionally produced  prints –silkscreens, woodcuts etchings and the like–  because the artists have found freedom of expression within the limitations of their means. A particular favorite is the dreamlike suburban landscape I Dreamed I Could Fly, an etching/aquatint by Art Werger, where the warm, low light of the late afternoon sun washes over a scene of perfect order, the world held in stasis for an eternal moment. Hunter’s Moon Dancer by North Dakota  artist Linda Whitney, a finely observed and expertly drawn mezzotint (and winner of Second Prize) is deeply satisfying in its symmetry and rhythmic patterning. Winning my own personal and unofficial prize for staying on topic is a pair of deeply saturated green and gilt silk screen prints, Gold Nah Dar Gold by Chad Andrews, in which the image and the process are synonymous.

Hunter’s Moon Dancer by

Although there are many excellent examples of  well conceived and well executed printmaking here, a visitor’s  attention is inevitably drawn to artworks that surprise us with their idiosyncratic juxtaposition of media. It is entirely unexpected that taxidermy would figure in a print show, but there it is in Ashley Shaul’s But She Looked Friendly, which features a furry raccoon with a meticulously rendered tattoo on her backside.

But She Looked Friendly by Ashley Shaul

Combining different types of printing, painting, collage and photography seems to be a favorite strategy for many of the artists represented in Art Now: Printmaking. These works are technically monotypes and utilize the syntax of various print media in combination to arrive at artworks which  go far beyond the technical simplicity of the traditional monoprint.

Cul-de-Sac by Zack Fitchner

One of my favorite one-of-a-kind  prints, Mud Philosophy by H. Schenck of Grand Prairie TX, makes the most economic statement possible, using Washington mud marked on glass and run through a press. Another multi-technique monotype success is Cul-de-Sac by Zack Fitchner of Charleston, West Virginia. He uses lithography, woodcut, monotype and chine colle to evoke the overhead racket of planes taking off from an urban airport. The artwork that won Best in Show is one of these everything-and-the-kitchen-sink type multimedia extravaganzas too.  Ebb and Flow, by Carolyn Swift of Traverse City MI, combines woodcut, relief, etching, acrylic paint, ink and colored pencil in a large, energetic abstraction that practically jumps off the wall.

Ebb and Flow by Carolyn Swift

A show with this much material in it can’t be adequately described in print.  Art Now Printmaking requires your attention –and attendance.  As a nice bonus, if you have an interest in collecting relatively inexpensive works on paper, you really should take in this exhibit. Even works that are clearly one-offs are a bargain here. The exhibit is open until March 4. For more information go here

Art Now: Printmaking is on view until March 4.  Featured Artists are: Chad Andrews • Miguel Aragon • Robert Aronson • Tom Baker • Naomi Ballard • Jennifer Belair • Karen Benson • Shirley Bernstein • Laura Beyer • Benjamin Bigelow • Allison Blair • Ben Bohnsack • Jan Brown • Josh Christensen • John Cizmar • Abraham Cone • Schuyler DeMarinis • Tess Doyle • Andrea Eckert • Stacy Elko • Travis Erxleben • Craig Fisher • Frank James Fisher • Zach Fitchner • Cindi Ford • Arron Foster • Jenie Gao • Eric Goldberg • Helen Gotlib • Tim Gralewski • M. Alexander Gray • Brett Grunig • Tatsuki Hakoyama • Dominica Harrison • Tom Hollenback • Richard Hricko • Joyce Jewell • Rhonda Khalifeh • Tonia Klein • Joshua Kolbow • Alexis Kurtzman • Emily Legleitner • Geneviève L’ Heureux • Alexandria McAughey • Tyreese McDurmont • Dante Migone-Ojeda • Zachary Miller • John Miller • Eric Millikin • Ashley Nason • Nick Osetek • Carole Pawloski • Polly Perkins • Liv Perucca • Sylvia Pixley • Tatiana Potts • Linda Prentiss • Morgan Price • Laurie Pruitt • Christine Reising • Karen Riley • Benjamin Rinehart • Celeste Roe • Mary Rousseaux • R Ruth • Blake Sanders • H Schenck • Melissa Schulenberg • Terry Schupbach-gordon • Kayla Seedig • Sarah Serio • Ashley Shaul • Sarah Smelser • Barbara Smith • Jillian Sokso • LaNia Sproles • Emily Stokes • Lonora Swanson-Flores • Carolyn Swift • Olivia Timmons • Donald VanAuken • Roger Walkup • Annie Wassmann • Ian Welch • Art Werger • Linda Whitney • Maryanna Williams • DeWayne Williamson • Connie Wolfe • Mary Woodworth • Cameron York

State of the Nation

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American Odyssey by Jim Aho

How do you describe a big, contradictory, many-faceted place like the United States of America?  That is what Real American, the juried group show on view from now until August 13 at the Ann Arbor Art Center aims to do. What you see in this country right now  depends on where you are standing and the juror, eminent Ann Arbor-based photojournalist Peter Baker, treats us to his personal view of not just  one America but several.

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The New American Heritage by Shawn Quinlan

The America that gets the most attention in this sprawling exhibit is  loud, materialistic, individualistic, restless and consumerist. Many of the best works in this vein are photographs, perhaps reflecting Mr. Baker’s special area of expertise. Errol Daniel’s photograph of Florian Ayana Fauna shows a youth in surroundings meant to depict her (his?) highly idiosyncratic values. But this young Goth doesn’t seem happy about it.   Bored young men pose with energy drinks in front of an unlovely supermarket in Monster Energy, Tulsa, a large scale photograph by Dan Farnum. Corporate logos, junk food and cars are the stuff of worship in Contemporary Totem by Jonathan Frey.

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Contemporary Totem by Jonathan Frey

America as the land of the restless  gets some attention in Jaye Schlesinger’s beautifully painted gouaches. In Too Much Fun she captures the backside of a family car (no doubt a gas guzzler), covered in leisure equipment on a mission to have fun at all costs.

Perhaps the most perfect embodiment of  this view of America as the sum of its material parts is Shawn Quinlan’s The New American Heritage, which is also the  winner of the Best in Show Award. This is an outrageously garish but well crafted and carefully composed quilt that combines a classic American artform with pop imagery, cooking up a chaotic, patriotic, consumerist stew. A melancholy Bozo the Clown towers over the  diminutive figures of George Washington, Uncle Sam and Abraham Lincoln surrounded by well-known symbols of the nation. All hell seems to be breaking loose below.

And could any exhibit about America  right now not include the current spokesman for America First, Donald  Trump?  John Posa delivers a hilarious painterly take-down of the Donald, his rough and flaky face topped by a furry  coiffure, part toupee, part coonskin cap. In a similar satirical vein, Barbara Melnik Carson’s Armed American is a stern Lady Liberty who stands on guard, no longer welcoming but fully locked and loaded, ready to repel the invading hordes.

There is another America to be seen in Real American, lurking under the surface and often drowned out by the craziness and comedy of the dominant theme. This America  is a quieter land of big spaces and solitude. Seder Burns’ photo RV Camped for the Night on BLM Land in CO. is a lyrical picture of the unspoiled land that belongs to every American, claimed for a night by one traveler.

In this America, citizens love their country, sincerely if not uncritically.   In Conduct Becoming #24 , C.J. Breil  shows a  veteran, quietly heroic and proud of his and his family’s service in a prosaic American setting. In the large photo portrait Mitchelene Big Man, Crow Indian/Iraq Veteran by Melissa Lynn, a woman embraces her dual American identity, wearing her Native American regalia while holding an American flag.  And Tina Blondell has painted  Antimony as Nubia, in which a young African American  woman presents herself as a confident, larger-than-life superhero.

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Conduct Becoming #24 by C.J. Breil

A ghostly American flag  made of wire and string (Flag by Dietmar Krumrey) seems to say that America is more than its material parts, not just a place but an idea.  The flag is again a stand-in for the nation in American Odyssey by Jim Aho, worn and damaged and bullet pocked, but still recognizable.

It’s tempting to pick one America or the other.  Is it a nation defined by its materialism, its corporate logos, its crazy politics? Or is it a spacious spiritual  home for ideals of freedom, equality and justice for all?  Of course, this is a false distinction, or to put it another way, two sides of the same American silver dollar.  The same values that favor self expression also favor isolation and alienation.  The unbridled pursuit of prosperity can create a nightmarish culture where everything is monetized. The flip side of patriotism can be ugly bigotry.

Being American requires  constant balancing and rebalancing, defining and re-defining, in real time, of our shared values: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Real American is part of that ongoing conversation.

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Antimony as Nubia by Tina Blondell

For more about Ann Arbor Art Center’s 117 Gallery, go here.

 Artists in Real American: Jim  Aho (Huntington Woods, MI), Mark  Bleshinski (Bay City, MI),Tina  Blondell (Minneapolis, MN), C.J.  Breil (Ann Arbor, MI), Sarah Buddendeck (Ann Arbor, MI), Seder  Burns (Ann Arbor, MI), Barbara  Melnik Carson  (Ann Arbor, MI), Vanessa Compton (Greensboro, VT), Errol Daniels (East Amherst, NY), Keith  Downie (Muskegon, MI), Dan Farnum (Tulsa, OK), Kathie  Foley-Meyer (Los Angeles, CA), Heather  Freeman (Charlotte, NC), Jonathan  Frey (Lewisburg, PA), David  Gardner (San Francisco, CA), Sarah Hahn (Cleveland, OH), Amber  Harrison (Ann Arbor, MI), Christian Helser (Grand Rapids, MI), Dietmar Krumrey (Clare, MI), Melissa Lynn (Denver, CO), Astrid  Muller-Karger (Ann Arbor, MI), I.B.  Murphy (Marine on St. Croix, MN), John Posa (Ann Arbor, MI), Shawn Quinlan (Pittsburgh, PA), Jim Rehlin (Ann Arbor, MI), Jaye Schlesinger (Ann Arbor, MI), Geoffrey  Stein (New York, NY), Marilynn Thomas (Warren, MI), Seth  Trent (Chandler, AZ), Tamara Wasserman (Chicago, IL), Timothy Wells (Ypsilanti, MI), Chad  Yenney (Wenatchee, WA), Micah  Zavacky (Dayton, OH)