Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Mezzo-Manic Prints of Carol Wax

Man, oh Man, OH MAN! I mean Really, my inked up comrades, take a Good look! The images you are about to experience are about the BEST there are to see, and the artist (Carol Wax) has been setting the print world on its ears with these masterpieces. High praise you might say, but honestly, when Wax started exhibiting these prints, people's eyes popped, and one could hear the collective swearing of printmakers the world over, saying, "Damn, how does she DO it?" Well, we printmakers know 'how' she does the process, and it's hard and difficult and most would say its a pain in the a--, but it is a process that has historically, and continues to, yield rich, velvety black tones like no other. Technique aside, because I don't need to delve into that, nor will I, Wax's prints are simply dazzling.
Some obvious things that stand out in Wax's work are the cool, slick, gleam of her subjects; their rich detail and crisp lines. Wax would appear to treat them with a loving and reverent care, as an antique collector would for his/her possessions. She repeatedly produces astoundingly wonderful and complex compositions that invite our eyes to meander through them like one would through Cezanne's highly structured paintings or the Ab Ex brushstrokes of Willem DeKooning. They arrest our attention, but what they do next is transport us to another era, another period where the invention of machines and their design was an art. 
"My mezzotints of prosaic objects reflect my experience of the ordinary as extraordinary. By manipulating light, shadows, repetitive patterns, and skewing perspectives, I strive to reveal the anima in the inanimate."
Well, that's an understament if ever there was one. Wax take objects from a by-gone era of what look like the 1930s and 1940s. Some are portrayed frontally like icons of communication. The mechanics of other objects are mostly splayed out  in some state of dis-assembly. The gears and parts are strewen about, perfectly filling the picture plane. Further, Wax balances the light and shadows pouring over the objects in an engaging and tantalising manner. To be honest, the shadows activate the negative space, caressing the subjects. We'd just like to be able to touch them. 
The effect of Wax's works makes one feels like they're in an old black and white film, a noir, or a Garbo flick, or the film My Man Friday. The flash, the substance of those old objects that transport us to another place and time are all the more interesting when one considers that Wax is describing older mechanisms of communication via an even older tool of visual communication - (the mezzotint rocker). 
One wonders if Wax has a particular fascination for this era since she has spent so much time invested in these items, but in truth it doesn't matter. Who cares? These antiques are ageless and in perfect condition. Wax's choice of subject makes a decided departure from what one normally sees of this process, and for that we are grateful. As she once said in an interview, she understood that realistic images weren't necessarily seen as creative or conceptual, yet she boldly stated that there was a lot of printmaking that wasn't  creative anyway. Sadly, this is true.

I do like the way the artist puts a little chaos into a seemingly inanimate object - as in the case below, the typewriter's ribbon has gone haywire and is completely untangled from its spool. She makes the chaos fun. These images are sleek, sexy and invoke out tactile sensibilities. Granted her choice of subject is far from the norm associated with the process, but that is the beauty of printmaking, it's legacy evolves as do we, and investigative printmakers like Wax have helped propel an older method of making inked up images to give them a fresh look. 
And then, just when we think Wax is the mezzo-manic master of black and white imagery, she shocks us with this colorfully refined gem below. Can't you just hear that thing's keys go clack, clack, clack? I don't tire from looking at her work. She has made a clear and decisive impression upon our field, and we can marvel at what she's achieved. Here's to hoping more of our brethren are inspired to achieve something new with our own work after savouring hers.

Carol Wax was born in New York City,1953. She attended the Manhattan School of Music, and earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in 1975 majoring in Flute Performance. She continued as a professional musician until 1980.
In the mid 1970s, she took printmaking courses at the Lake Placid School of Art, and then studied printmaking at the Pratt Graphics Center in New York City.  She looked at the work of Philip Pearlstein and gravitated to the historical process of mezzotint. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Wax  conducted research into historical printmaking techniques while continuing to develop her own work.  She spent several years learning and piecing together the history o her process until in 1990, Harry N. Abrams published The Mezzotint: History and Technique.
Wax has taught printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design,  the State University of New York at New Paltz and at New Tork University, and Montclair State University
In 2002, Wax moved to upstate New York where she continues to work.
2011 - Head Juror, First International Mezzotint Festival, Ekaterinberg Museum of Fine Arts, Ekaterinberg,  Russia
2009 -  Individual Support Grant, Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation
2004 - Concordia Career Advancement Award
2003 - Artist's Fellowship Grant , New York Foundation for the Arts 
1994 - Louise Nevelson Award for Excellence in Printmaking from the American Academy of Ats and Letters
The MacDowell Colony Residency,  New Hampshire
1996 - designed a system for attaching adjustable weights to the mezzotint rocker, the first improvement to rocker design in over three hundred years.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Boston and New York Public Libraries

Contact: 914 788 5329 or cwax@earthlink.net

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