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Artlink’s 28th National Print show hosts great local and national talent
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Every year, there is an amazing show of fine art which I can't miss. This exhibition offers beautiful works from a copious amount of nationally renowned artists, exploring the intricacies of those sometimes-alien terms (to lay people and art lovers alike) like silkscreen, lithography, intaglio and aquatint. The fact that I can view this show at Artlink every time I drive downtown to the main library is the veritable cherry on top.
This year, in its 28th incarnation, the Artlink National Print Show is in fine form. Not only is this the first year to include a mini-catalogue, but is has also been curated by an outside source: Mark Pascale, the Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings for the Art Institute of Chicago. He also contributed to an amazing traveling exhibition of Jasper Johns’ work, which recently finished its run at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, as well as exhibitions of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Beuys, and Edvard Munch, making him an excellent first curator for Artlink seminal print show.
In a wider context, this is a very important step for exhibitions in Fort Wayne as well. A finely curated show allows great art to really shine (and not-quite-great art to look good, too). When Artlink brings in a third party in the form of a guest curator, it is a call for other exhibitions in the city to “step up their game.” This also gives our venues and artists a higher profile within the art world as a whole.
Speaking of Fort Wayne artists, Arthur Cislo, Josh Hoering, Christopher Ganz and others were included by Pascale in this year’s exhibition. Cislo’s “Messianic Drama” which I spoke of in more detail in a past article (FWR #94), was again breathtaking in its intricate design and bladework, being made in the form of a woodcut print/monotype. Christopher Ganz’s award winning partial self-portrait also brings a sense of awe when the viewer considers the delicacy and volume of the artist’s markings in the creation of the image. Ganz chose to use intaglio with Chine Colle’, and an extremely tight knit cross hatching to create the implied depth of field and scale of light in the image. And as the catalogue’s glossary of printmaking terms describes, “Chine Colle’ is a print in which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of Oriental paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. Because China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, Chine Colle’ prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints.”
Other great pieces include Jason Urban’s “Good and Plenty Snake,” a silkscreen of a curled up snake channeling Bridget Riley’s Op effects, Andrea Peterson’s “Log,” which incorporates relief printing, paper casting, and the rarely used thrown back printing effect of marbling.
Debbie Ngo’s “An Ectogenesis Beginning,” picked out by Pascale both as a prizewinner and in his curator notes in the catalogue, also caught my attention. Initially I saw the figures working in lab coats, apparently growing something in test tubes, rendered in a style somewhere between western comics and eastern manga, and thought to myself, “What an odd composition on the page, being cropped in such a way.” Then, after reading the title and really looking at the whole print, realizing that those figures where housed inside the silhouette of a fetus, still curled up as though in a womb I became more interested. Ngo’s image recalled Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, with the title ectogenesis, which means “being born outside the fetus,” and the words “Everyone is happy” streaming above the lab technicians as they work.
Finally, Lauren Lake Garber’s “8.25.07” blew my socks off. This award winning, exceedingly subtle print, which she describes as “graphite on paper (silkscreen)”, was such a surprise and true pleasure to view. Recalling all sorts of forms through modernist art history, Garber’s two color representation of a flower reminds the viewer of those masterfully processed representations of Daffodils, Woodland Plants, and Lemon Branches in its structure. Then throw in the subtle, beleaguered color sense of Brice Marden’s 70’s minimalist color field paintings. Top this all off with the overall aesthetic of cold, kind, melancholy, zen nothingness which Garber finds, seemingly effortlessly, through her composition and presentation. Like a small retrospective of late high modernism, “8.25.07” is a must see.
In his curator notes, Mark Pascale thanks Deb Washler (Artlink’s Executive Director) and Artlink for “marinating this annual opportunity for artists,” after explaining the way in which the current commercial forces in many of the art world’s mainstream venues can water down the content and experimentation which true art must always contain. This is a testament to the importance which Fort Wayne’s art scene can have on the nation, as a bastion from large, sometimes debilitating trends which stop the exhibition of so many artists truly deserving works, in the pursuit of further monetary gain. Artlink’s consistent and commendable model of “the little non-profit gallery” has truly paid off in allowing the citizens of Fort Wayne and the surrounding area to be in contact with truly important artworks from around the nation.