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Artlink’s 35th National Print Exhibition

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


A juried national exhibition is a strong indication of an institution and an art scenes clout. It shows that artists from great distances are eager to exhibit their work in our community, and it also shows that the people supporting the arts in the greater Fort Wayne area are sophisticated to certain degree in that they are looking beyond their geographic boundaries, and are appreciative of art in all of its forms and from all of its points of origin.

Artlink’s 35th National Print Exhibition, a staple of the Fort Wayne art scene’s annual calendar, is running through May 27th this year, and is surprising continuing to outdo itself even after multiple years of really stepping up its game. This year, the exhibition is Mark Pascale, a lithographer, curator, and professor based in Chicago. Pascale is also the Janet and Craig Duchossois Curator of Prints and Drawings at The Art Institute of Chicago. Pascale notes, “The traditions of printmaking interest me, of course, but not to the point of such reverence that no engaging image results from the finessing of such traditions.” Certainly, this iteration of the National Print exhibition shows the audience how much room there is to grow in understanding both the tradition and experimentation inherent in the art of fine printmaking.

Being that this is the first print exhibition that (somewhat) new Artlink executive director Amber Foster has been at the helm for, the viewer can expect small fresh approaches to things like the design of the exhibition booklet, the layout of the exhibition itself, and for those who were lucky enough to attend the opening, print demonstrations giving attendees the chance to experiment with printmaking themselves.

The 35th National Print Exhibition is also in its 20th year of receiving significant support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation. This great stewardship of instilling art appreciation in the community by Lincoln is greatly appreciated by the Fort Wayne arts community. Beyond the sponsorship of the exhibition, Lincoln was also one of the generous groups sponsoring a purchase award, accompanying the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts in directly supporting these amazing artists. And even still, outside of those purchase awards, artists were vying for two $500, four $250, and five $150 awards making this one of the more lucrative exhibitions to be a part of in our region!

As for the art in the exhibition, this year’s print show seemed to trend toward both the woodcut and the abstract, something that past exhibitions did not seem to delve into as much. Artists like Stephanie Berrie, Ian Cross, Eduardo Fausti, and Sarah Smelser’s pieces were almost entirely non-objective abstraction, while more still such as MaryAlice Devillebichot, Cathy Jean Clark, and Elizebeth Busey represented natural subjects but in a very loose or abstract manner. Other artists like Candace Corgan, and her lithograph “Trigger Happy” created almost photorealistic images of objects arranged as a still life which almost becomes an abstraction when looking at the entire image as gestalt. “Trigger Happy” is composed of a collection of different forms of guns ranging from various handguns to staplers, to a glue gun and a water bottle - anything with a trigger. The quality of the craftsmanship of the piece is amazing. And the rendering of the individual objects, when taking the image as a single design, produces a wonderful push and pull of the eye into the darker metals of the handguns and the lighter representations of the plastics on the more domestic items. “Trigger Happy” was also a purchase award by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

Ian Cross’s abstractions “Cipher” and “Inner Speech” both displayed a keen eye for creating chaotically beautiful constructions of form and color while still finding a way to pull a guiding form out from the din, giving the viewer a reference point to stop and then delve back into his work. While “Inner Speech” won a award, “Cipher” resonated much more strongly with this writer. Perhaps because of the title fitting so aptly with Cross’s style of hiding clues to the reading of the image, or just because of the images both literal and designed depth, “Cipher” was the most commanding piece in this exhibition.

While not the most commanding, Paula Praeger’s screenprint, “Uh-oh! Mortality!” was by far the best piece in this exhibition. Praeger, like so many great word artists before her such as Jenny Holzer, Kay Rosen, and even artists like Jack Pierson, finds a way to use letters, their placement, and a beautiful choice of color to turn the everyday into the sublime and sacred. In “Uh-oh! Mortality!”, Praeger breaks the phrase up into syllables, gives each syllable a line on the paper, so that the viewer reads the image with an Eastern eye from top down. The image is printed in a very clean and one could even say exuberantly resigned font, and printed it on red and blue lettering on white paper. Given the eponymous title, one can only read this piece as a critique of an American ideal or system. Perhaps it is a reference to the American Dream finally coming out of the naivette of thinking that it will continue without constant care? The phrase itself almost reads like a child learning something, but still framing it within its own world view. Even more so, perhaps it is the authoritarian voice of a parent somewhat scolding the child but in a child’s vocabulary. Without question, Praeger’s work is the most conceptual and the most stunning of the pieces in this exhibition once given the time to work with it.

The 35th National Print Exhibition is yet again, a wonderful example of the strength of Fort Wayne’s art scene. With staples like this exhibition, we will become known with the greater art world for supporting strong work and understanding the symbolic importance of the visual language we call printmaking.

For More Information:
35th National Print Exhibition

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.