The world comes to Minneapolis in shows at Highpoint and the Soap Factory.
There’s nothing spontaneous about printmaking, no splashing paint onto a canvas or scribbling a line on paper. Because woodcuts, lithographs, mezzotints and so on are first drawn or incised into wood, stone or metal plates, then inked and pressed onto paper, everything is deliberate. Controlled. Tested. Layered. Proofed. Dried.
Keeping the image fresh through all that fussing is a challenge ably met by the 63 artists whose work is featured in “Stand Out Prints: 2014” at Highpoint Center for Printmaking through Oct. 4. Selected by Chicago-based art historian and curator Susan Tallman, editor-in-chief of the journal Art in Print, the show was winnowed from 837 images submitted by 293 artists from 46 states plus Canada, the U.K., Australia, Israel, Ireland and Latvia. Faced with entries that were “problematically good,” Tallman quickly realized she needed an organizing theme.
What struck her repeatedly was the sense of a specific place and time in many pieces, so she chose that as a guiding principle.
“Sometimes the flavor is elegiac, sometimes celebratory, sometimes sardonic,” she wrote about the show. “In each case, the artist has grabbed from the moving surface of time something concrete — the opposite of a Snapchat.”
Nichole Maury’s “By the Numbers” very cleverly exemplifies the theme while revealing how prints are made. A screen print, it deconstructs into 20 panels a conventional landscape featuring a red barn sheltered by a bower of trees in an autumnal landscape. Each panel contains only the details to be printed in a single color — jagged bits of meadow green and a few leaves on one panel; golden clouds in another, black tree trunk and shadows in a third. Viewers are left to mentally assemble the puzzle-like pieces into a conceptual whole, or to enjoy the exploded image as is.
Other images range from Florin Hategan’s human-scale linocut of a girl fashionably dressed in boots, jeans and bomber jacket, to Gary Olson’s etching of a beady-eyed Angus bull, and a limpid polymer photogravure in which Paulette Myers-Rich depicts “Black Ice” as a watery miasma. In her 9-feet-long “beach panorama” of bathers standing in the sea, Liz Chalfin uses photo intaglio as if she were sketching with soft charcoal. Like many of the artists, Nina Jordan adapts her medium to her message in “Homes for Under $50,000 IX, Columbus, Mississippi” by using the rude grain of her woodcut to accentuate the shabby decay of the advertised real estate.
In “House Sampler, Land Sampler,” Vanessa Hall-Patch cleverly prints 110 tiny cutout house images on a poster accompanied by an accordion-fold book of postcard-sized pictures of the banal landscapes from which the nondescript houses were taken. Modern architectural details become abstract patterns in Elizabeth Ferrill’s pochoir prints, and Nancy Bolan captures a Minnesota “Spring” in her ironic intaglio of a woman and dog amid undulating drifts of snow under a bright, French-blue sky.
Nature wins at Soap Factory
During a 2012-13 residency at Casa Poli — a Spartan cliffside artist’s studio overlooking the ocean in Coliumo, Chile — Minnesota artist Alexa Horochowski became intrigued by the lush seaweed, gnarled rocks, curious sponges and other material that washed ashore with the surging tide.
All that and more she’s transformed into darkly surrealistic sculpture, hypnotic videos and enigmatic photos in the mesmerizing show “Club Disminución.” In a half-dozen sculptures she’s woven strands of giant kelp into sinuous knots that crouch like Medusa-heads atop their rustic pedestals. At least one sculpture is made of bronze tinted in perfect imitation of the dried seaweed.
Weaving kelp and black, oily rope through the perforated sides of rusty steel boxes, she creates minimalist sculptures of ominous mien. Bronzed but broken sponges, a gigantic flaking shell, worn and eroded detritus — shoe sole, golf ball — suggest that in the end Nature wins, tearing all apart.
In videos, projected on wall-sized canvas sheets, waves surge through masses of 10-feet-long strands of kelp that whiplash into baroque curls and then flick out like a fly-fishing line over a trout stream. Mirrored and doubled, the dazzling kelp images tumble kaleidoscopically in the foaming brine while the wind whines and howls. In another video, waves surge through the sunlit mouth of a dark, claustrophobic sea cave and seemingly crash over us viewers. And everywhere a faint scent of sea rot and salt air permeates the gallery.
Uncompromisingly dramatic, the installation is a wunderkammer, a perfectly paced and stunning display of Horochowski’s ingenuity in partnership with Nature’s fierce beauty and relentless power.