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Artlink National Print Exhibit, Plus

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


As Artlink has evolved over the last 34 years into a sturdy, stealthy organization, producing great exhibitions within the Fort Wayne community.

Sadly, certain exhibitions like the Annual National Print Exhibit many times go unnoticed, especially in relation to the talent present year after year. In Artlink's current incarnation, housed at the Auer Center for the Arts in downtown, there is a luxury to host smaller exhibitions in addition to the headlining shows which dwarfed their previous space in the Hall Community Center. This year's 32nd Annual National Print Exhibit has been beautifully paired with "Re-Purposed" an eight artist invitational looking at objects somewhere between an assisted readymade and assemblage, and "Abstract Works by Nathan Taves," a small solo exhibition of one of Northeast Indiana's hidden talents. By folding these three exhibitions together, Artlink has created a great cross pollination of visual art audiences in our region.

The Annual National Print Exhibit this year was particularly interesting in that many of the "regulars" to the show contributed expert pieces, yet were still upstaged by some relative newcomers! Artists like V. VanAmeyden and Donald Furst, with their respective "Thirteen Ways" and "High Way" were two more recent print exhibition contributors, both award winners, with work which was both robust and quieting. VanAmeyden's "Thirteen Ways" is an intaglio suite of 15 prints which incorporate a conversational tone and a gestural visual urgency. The hand plays prominently in VanAmeyden's images, as they make hearts, express anger, grace, or curiosity. The quality of "Thirteen Ways", both in its line and its technical printing, are a testament to VanAmeyden's skill.

Donald Furst's "High Way" contains a similar focused technical aspect which simply draws respect outside of any content. The precision is especially noted in that "High Way" is a woodcut print where the printed ink actually makes up the negative space of the image, a fantastic landscape of the night sky. Each millimeter of white space in the image was the result of an incredibly delicate hand removing the surface of the wood block. Furst's skill then becomes apparent as the viewer notes the number of starts placed in the space and the number of carefully composed dashes and stippled dots were used to to create the overall image. Outside of the more technical aspects of this piece's superiority, "High Way" is an astute study in the power of strong design principles and the need for economy to make an impacting visual experience. Furst's image is essentially a cropped view of tree tops, a night sky, ragged ladders sticking out of the tree tops, and one solid, white, simple ladder, cropped to the third step, hanging effortlessly and sturdily at the top of the image. To give the image a quality which this writer can only describe as a subtle heavy-handedness, Furst represented the stars in the dark sky as very delicate crosses, handing in space. This oxymoronic and cryptic image, and Durst's obvious skill, make "High Way" a must see.

Others pieces and artists with admirable contributions to the 32nd Annual National Print exhibit include Justin Diggle and his "L Wing" which included embossment, Arthur Cislo, whose "Frenzy, Spreading" continues his demonstration of complete control over color and its use to produce form. Jon Detweiler's "Warm and Windy" and Judy Leiviska's "The Path" and "Early Morning" all contained strong, almost brutal line quality. Overall, this annual favorite of Fort Wayne's art nerds certainly matched reasonable expectations.

Surprisingly, "Re-Purposed" contained a large number of strong pieces as well. Recycling and assemblage themes for exhibition tend to be hit or miss, no matter where the viewer finds themselves, so it was with great delight to see that this exhibition was full of surprises and great diversity. Eric Tarr's work however, taking the form of a number of passive kinetic sculptures, were the strongest works out of this small invitational. Pieces like "Jarring/Notes", made from the remains of a music box, a glass jar, a wooden nickel, a pencil, and paper, are simple reminders of the ways that unique objects can be art outside of the normal formalistic concerns, and that these interstitial art objects can be just as fascinating if not more so, inviting the viewer to not only activate and co-create the piece, but in general play with and try to decode the object's construction.

Last but certainly not least, the small but vocal body of work presented by Nathan Taves in the Betty Fishman gallery continue the trend of strong exhibitions currently in Artlink. Combining detailed realism and non-objective abstraction, Taves creates small windows into a surreal, manic-depressive world which includes peaceful landscapes including what seem like memory based image of homes as well as what seem almost like aerial views of Midwestern vistas. These bits and pieces of recognizable, or convincing, scenes are then literally ripped apart and distorted almost hyper-dimensionally in other parts of the same picture place. While sometimes becoming almost dizzying, Taves work makes the viewer respond to their own orientation in space and struggle to compose what pieces are present into a pre-explosive image. Taves' artist statement describes this process as being what he would consider to be a sort of spatial dance, with multiple distinct landscapes or images mending into the confluence he presents.

This strong presentation of exhibitions shows that even after all these years, Artlink still commands a robust stable of local and regional artists, and can muster a beautiful national exhibition regularly. Being one of Indiana's few non-profit gallery spaces, Artlink is and will be an important part of Fort Wayne's art scene for some time to come.

Artlink: Contemporary Art Gallery
"32nd Annual National Print Exhibit"
"Re-Purposed Exihibition"
"Abstract works by Nathan Taves"
April 13-May 23, 2012
For more information please contact Artlink at www.artlinkfw.com

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