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Outlaws on Print
FWMoA show brings together printmakers from the underground
By Rebecca Stockert
Fort Wayne Reader
Outlaws of Print: The History and Artists of the Underground Collective, on display at Fort Wayne Museum of Art beginning April 21, features members of the Outlaw Printmakers collective. The group is characteristically ‘underground,’ residing outside the mainstream art world, though like many other Outsider artists and groups, slowly creeping in through the backdoor. As the 137 prints in the exhibit show, the group is comprised of highly talented artists, well-deserving of their first museum group exhibition.
This exhibit was curated by artist Dennis McNett of Wolfbat Studios and FWMoA Curator of Contemporary Art, Josef Zimmerman. It features artwork by Julia Curran, Bill Fick, John and Charles Hancock, Richard Mock, Carlos Hernandez, Tom Huck, Martin Mazorra, Dennis McNett, Ryan O'Malley, Kathryn Polk, Derrick Riley, Artemio Rodriguez, Sean Starwars, Joseph Velasquez, and Ericka Walker (aka, the Outlaw Printmakers collective).
You may remember McNett from past exhibitions at FWMoA; this will be his third time showing at the museum. He had a solo show in summer 2015, Dennis McNett: Legend of the Wolfbat, and participated again in a group show, Out of Print: Pushing the Boundaries in the Art of Print, in summer 2016. FWMoA also has a permanent archive of McNett’s work.
Zimmerman is an artist, curator, and Fort Wayne native. You may also recognize him as your friendly local bartender at Calhoun Soups Salads and Spirits. He is known for his curatorial prowess, bring the legendary ‘godfather of low brow and pop surrealism’ to Fort Wayne, Robert Williams, in 2017. He has brought many other contemporary stars to Fort Wayne through FWMoA, perhaps most notably through partnerships with Thinkspace Gallery out of Los Angeles, CA.
The outlaw group came together over a shared sense of exclusion: they rejected and were rejected by academic printmaking. McNett and fellow printmaker Sean Starwars were banned from the Southern Graphics Print Conference several years ago, one of the biggest global printmaking gatherings.
This sense of being on the fringe and not allowed in was felt by other members of the group, if in different ways. McNett explains: “We would all get the same put downs from these academic people: ‘You’re work is illustrative, it’s narrative.’ That was a no-no, especially in the printmaking world. It’s big movement of abstract stuff and conceptual work.”
Many of the artists in the group come from academic backgrounds. McNett himself taught at the Pratt Institute in NYC for 10 years before quitting. But he explains that the work created by the Outlaw Printmakers is about more than just what can be found in any art history book.
Zimmerman discussed how the FWMoA show affirms what the printmakers have known all along: “In a sense, this is a redeeming thing; everybody said that it wasn’t allowed. They said, ‘that’s not art, that’s never going to make it.’ Oh yeah it is; it is art.”
Many printmakers in the group, according to McNett, are highly influenced by 19th and 20th century Latino printmaking culture. “It’s the same spirit...they say printmaking democratizes art because it makes it accessible to people and you’re able to get an idea or an image out very quickly in multiples.”
McNett elaborated, explaining that he and many of his fellow Outlaw Printmakers’ influences track back to Mexican printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (b. 1852 - d. 1913). Posada is well known for his images of calavera (human skulls in Mexican culture; think Día de Muertos) and used printmaking for political and social purposes.
The influence of Posada and Latino printmaking culture can be felt in Hernandez’s screen print, Too Much, Too Soon. Graphic textures, thick black lines with gasping energy, skulls, and simplicity of form sing the song of these interests. Like other Outsider, Low Brow, and Pop Surrealist art, the influence of 80s culture, punk rock, skateboard culture, and rock n’ roll posters can be seen in this piece and Hernandez’s other work.
Now deceased, printmaker Richard Mock is given credit for bringing together and influencing the Outlaw Printmakers. He is well known for being a linocut editorial cartoonist; his work was featured in the New York Times op-ed section from 1980 through 1996, among other publications. His work features the familiar strong black and white linework of linocuts, as well as the unapologetic political ardor of Latino printmaking.
On April 28, FWMoA will host a panel discussion, printmaking demo, and opening party; the public is welcome to attend all three of these events. The printmaking demo has a small fee of $10 and participants must rsvp via the FWMoA website. Attendance to the opening party is free for FWMoA members.
The exhibit runs at FWMoA, 311 East Main Street, Fort Wayne, IN, April 21-July 8, 2018. Learn more about the exhibition at https://www.fwmoa.org/Exhibition/outlaws You can also like the Outlaw Printmakers on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OPBFT/