Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Head to Wisconsin for MONOPRINT 2013 !

In the name of enterprise( I don't mean the Star Trek kind) and resourcefulness, we printmakers have to be pretty adept at finding ways to market ourselves and get our work out to the masses. In any number of art fairs found in this country, one can find an excellent printmaker selling their prints for pennies on the dollar, or selling their work in a cafe. A university's annual Christmas print sale is a good option for finding some great work and supporting local art students, because honestly, if we don't sell them there we'll end up giving away prints for Christmas presents because, well, people(family) need our work to grace their bathrooms and closets, and we don't have the inclination nor means to go Christmas shopping at Neiman Marcus(Needless Mark-ups). Sorry, I digress......
I want to discuss an idea that involves community support for local printmaking programs (in this case at a university, but it would work equally well for an independent print shop or studio). University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point is hosting its 3rd biennial Monoprint symposium May 31- June 6 whereby a dozen artists are invited to come make as many prints as they can within a week's time. The purpose of making these prints is that at the end of the week, the artists donate a couple of prints to an art exhibit/art auction. At the auction, people from the community come in to bid on the pieces, and the proceeds from the auction go back to the university's printmaking department to help support the  program with supplies, maintain and improve facilities and bring in guest artists. 
For those uninitiated to our inked up profession, the monoprint process is a singular,  one of a kind print versus the tried and true nature of the medium where we make multiples (editions) of the same image. The artists invited to this year's Monoprint 2013 are a diverse lot, and well equipped to making alternative prints. They are as follows:

          John Armstrong (Phoenix, AZ)
·         Bob Erickson (Amherst Junction, WI)
·         Julia Goos Pence (Portland, OR)
·         Caren Heft (Stevens Point, WI)
·         JinMan Jo (Plover, WI)
·         Joshua Kolbow (West Bend, WI)
·         Kristen Martincic (Columbia, MO)
·         Dennis Nechvatal (Madison, WI)
·         Deb Oden (Savannah, GA)
·         John Schulz (Boston, MA)
·         Eung-Won Suh (Seoul, South Korea)
·         Cerese Vaden (Tempe, AZ)

·         Danielle Wyckoff (Grand Rapids, MI)

The entrepreneurship of such an idea helps the university or printshop establish ties with the community, and it establishes a little financial freedom from budget cuts, which has crippled university art programs in recent years. This isn't a new idea, but it's one that works.  Robert Erickson (Big Bob) heads the printmaking program at Stevens Point and if any of you are in the area, then pop in and see what's happening. I guarantee there will be some kick-axx prints happening and it will be worth the effort to go to the art auction (Thursday, June 6, 6:30-8:30p, at the Edna Carlsten Galleryto support a fine printmaking program such as found at Stevens Point. 
For more information, email or go to this link for the symposium,

Monday, May 27, 2013

John Armstrong Wields His Alternative Path through Printmaking

John Armstrong is a master printer and printmaker(there is a difference, folks)who hails originally from Laurel MT, but has resided in Phoenix, AZ for many years.  He will be one of a dozen invited artists from across the United States to participate in MONOPRINT 2013, which is being held May 31-June 6, at University of Wisconsin at Steven's Point first met Armstrong at the first MONOPRINT symposium in 2009. Over the course of a week, I watched as Armstrong banded together some mysterious materials, mixed some of them together, waved his magic printing hands over the plates and voila!, there were prints all over the place. Honestly, they sprung up like rabbits jumping out of a magician's hat. With a little bit more cutting and collage, he'd amassed quite a striking group of works. 
The thing about the symposium, is that people from the community are welcome to come into the shop and see artists at work. During the week when I worked alongside Armstrong, he was quite the teacher, inviting people to try some of the techniques he was doing and extended the collaborative part of printmaking to include their suggestions and collages with his work. It made the experience more enjoyable for them and de-mystified the printing process. Armstrong's a generous instructor and gives his time and energy wholeheartedly. His inventiveness in the printmaking field is endless and the work is pretty incredible, too.

Armstrong was raised in a large family in Montana, and since receiving his MFA from University of Montana, he's been settled in the southwest in Phoenix for some time. Throughout his varied career, Armstrong's always brought integrity, creativity and energy to his projects, whether it be in museum administration, or in art education, exhibit design, or curating a private/corporate art colleciton. He and his wife, Joan Prior, operate Armstrong-Prior, Inc, a multi-facted business in the arts. Through it, he has worked as a master printer with several internationally acclaimed artists, including Rudy Autio, Jun Kaneko, Matin Mull and Don Reitz.
As for Armstrong's imagrey, I am enamored with it to the extent he breaks from traditional printing techniques, and doesn't fuss about cutting and collaging the shapes which have familial ties with the work of artists Arshile Gorky and Willem DeKooning. His lines ebb and flow throughout the compositions, and they embrace the edges of his shapes, which are sometimes bold with flat color, or transclucent letting co-exist underlayers of line and shape. I head a video once where Armstrong was talkng about his work, and the jazz music playing in the background was a perfect match for the way these images sing. His prints can be incredibly spatial or tightly composed, but in any case one is pleasantly surprised at the large and small aspects of his images. I was not able to get more images of Armstrong's work to better illustrate my point, but you can find more of his work at where one can also find examples of his paintings, sculpture and prints. Overall, one can see his sensitivity for color and line and Nature. If you are able to be in the Stevens Point area next week, drop by and see Armstrong and the rest of the artists working at the MONOPRINT 2013 symposium. You might even get to work with Armstrong on one of his pieces......

Armstrong now works in his own studio, often collaborating with other artists. Here is a video where Armstrong talks about his work.
Contact: Tel: 602-253-5784    

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Debora Oden's Raw Linear Fields

Debora Oden's work emphasizes repeated line, building forms out of ambiguity with shadowy structure and the implication of narrative through the organization of symbolic elements..... 
Hmm, that's a mouthful for what the viewer experiences as a purely visceral response. In fact, the visual receptors are working full-throttle in most of these images. I came across Oden's work when looking at the list of artists participating in University of Wisconsin at Steven's Point 'Monoprint 2013' workshop,(5/31-6/6/2013). (For those curious souls amongst you, I will be reviewing that workshop shortly, so stay tuned, my inked up comrades)

Oden's built-up  linear scratches remind me of quiet spaces quiet where no one would dare to speak in normal-decibled voices. These are spaces where one hears whispers and fragmented stories ushered in hushed tones. Oden shows us some open patches which allow us a small breathing space, but they become suddenly cluttered with layers and layers of linear chaos. I wasn't able to find much information about Oden's subject for these pieces beyond the technical making of the work (which, as you all know we printmakers can figure that out, so it will not grace this article), but there seem to be inferences toward landscape, and abstracted exterior places. Her colors are sensitively woven together and the tactile nature of the work is also pleasing to the eye. 
I do appreciate the 'drawing-ness' of these prints and her willingness to let all the lines show, regardless of whether they work or not, and they mostly work. The rawness of her overlaid lines, like  the frayed out feel of a old curtain sheer,  reveals more about oneself and the acquiring and unraveling of one's life experiences.  Oden is letting us inside of herself, seeing all the goo and sinews of her memories and her nerve-endings. It can be uncomfortable for some to comprehend the work in this context, but it feels correct. Some of the pieces have a tiny deliberate addition of three red dots, like dots of one's own blood, but more likely they represent energy chakras. This adds some metaphysical aspect to the work, but I 'get it' without them just as well.
Once in a while Oden puts in some recognizable object from the outer world, like the airplane above. They are drawn more playfully, but quite frankly, they do not add meaningful interpretation to the work. It's almost as if the artist doesn't trust herself to let the lines just 'be' enough. If she lost and found the plane instead of letting us truly see all of it, then it could add to the piece more effectively. The print below expands the spatial depth for us, and brings a connection with the field painters and the abstract 'oneness' of Mark Rothko. Here, we are inside the composition, walking through the lines, with the lines, in a space with out heaven or earth. Her pops of red bring us in with the picture, as though they are living souls that we have found in a fog. 
Yet my favorite of this group is this last image. Cool greens and dark blue-grey-blacks permeate the surface. We are walking along at a river's edge in late summer, at dusk, under some heavy-hanging willow tree branches . Here, the air is heavy with moisture and dew, but our oneness with nature is complete, and voicelessly understood. Oden is well on her way to creating an abstract language of line as we've seen before with the likes of Cy Twombly, but in her case the work is less superficially gestural. Her lines are measured, but not deliberate.They communicate effectively without needing to be violently aggressive. There is an organic fact-finding in her drawing approach, and as I said before she is comfortable with our seeing 'all' of her creative process, which goes against the grain of a lot of printmakers who work and re-work their image, making the most microscopic corrections to perfect their image. I applaud Oden's release from such constraints and hope more 'artists' will embrace printmaking in a similarly free and courageous manner.

M.F.A. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
B.F.A.  University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, GA
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Stevens Point, WI
University Place Art Center, Lincoln, NE
Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, NE

Individual Artist Fellowship-Encouragement Award, Nebraska Arts Council, Lincoln, NE
Residency Scholarship, Anderson Ranch, Snowmass Village, CO
A-Z Recognition Award, Roots and Crown, Great Plains Museum, Lincoln, NE
The Arton Paper Award, 77th
Annual International Competition: Printmaking,The Print Center, Philadelphia, PA
Vreeland Award for Fine Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Kimmel Fellowship in Studio Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Eisentrager-Howard Assistantship, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
UNL Graduate Assistantship, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Regents Tuition Fellowship, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE
Lincoln Print Group Travel Award, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Coleman Award for Printmaking, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney, NE
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
The Dose Makes the Poison, Folsom Gallery, University Place Art Center, Lincoln, NE
Recent Work, Folsom Gallery, University Place Art Center, Lincoln, NE
What Ships Are Built For, Eisentrager-Howard Gallery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
New Prints, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Nebraska City, NE
Large Drawings, The Rotunda Gallery, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE
Shook Hardy& Bacon, Kansas City, MO
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NE
Department of Fine and Performing Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE
Department of Art, University of Dallas, Irvine, TX

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Carlos Hermosilla Álvarez: Chilean Printmaker and Poet

In 20th c. history, the renowned Chilean printmaker and poet Carlos Hermosilla Alvarez (1905-1991) came to be revered in his homeland, but remained relatively unknown outside some academic circles in the United States. The reasons are many, but what grows stronger with the passage of time are  Hermosilla Alvarez' images and the impact of his words, which sought to right a wrong, and help free millions of oppressed Chileans from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Hermosilla Alvarez was born in Cerro, Chile to Carlos Hermosilla Sanhueza and Maria Isabel Alvarez. He was the eldest of three boys from a middle income family.  Eventually, the family moved to Santiago where Hermosilla Alvarez' father worked as a lithographer. Unfortunately, Hermosilla Alvarez' youth was spent in and out of hospitals, suffering numerous operations after contracting tuberculosis. It decalcified his bones and required a lot of recuperation. He vowed to become an artist despite losing and arm and a leg to the disease. He began to draw during this period, and eventually met and married his future wife, Maria Pinto, a nurse and sculptresss. Hewould later write poems about his difficult youth. 

He drew  the working people and peasants of Chile. In the southern part of the country he observed the area’s dockworkers, fishermen, and homemakers. He went into the Lota mines to see firsthand the miners' arduous life. He also sold newspapers which exposed him to the realities of World War I “.He worked as a messenger boy for the local telegraph and cable. He also illustrated the early works of a number of Chile’s most famous authors: Efraim Sxmulewicz , Pablo de Rokha  and Nicomedes Guzman.  

In the 1920s he began to submit his work for exhibition, winning his first art competition in 1927. Three years later, he entered the University of Chile in Santiago. Upon graduation he was hired in 1939 as Professor of Printing and Drawing at the fledging la Escuela de Bellas Artes (the School of Fine Arts) in Viña del Mar, Chile. He along with a small group of other professors literally built an art program from scratch. Although he won numerous prizes, awards, and honors for his artistic and social contributions to Chilean art and society, his first priority was his students. He put his teaching ahead of his own career and was well-known for his generosity. He was also known for his loyalty to the working class from which he had sprung.
Hermosilla Alvarez taught art for nearly 34 years until 1973 , when a military coup placed Augusto Pinochet in power. Then Hermosilla Alvarez shifted his creative energies to writing poetry. It became an outlet for his opposition to the Pinochet regime. One method of his opposition, was to make print portraits of leading opposition figures.  He also published many poetry collections dealing with the workers, peasants, fishermen, and ordinary citizens of Chile as well as the country’s cultural and artistic elites.
As a result of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy cultural exchanges in the 1940s, Hermosilla Alvarez' work was first seen in the United States. Exhibitions of his work were held in the US, Finland, Germany, and France and the proceeds went to support the exile Chilean communities and the various domestic causes which he and his wife supported.

Hermosilla Álvarez talked at length about the choices Chilean artists had made to elude the control of the Pinochet regime and the fight for the return to democracy. 
“If I’m invited by an organization controlled by the Government of course I would refuse to participate, but what we have left are private galleries, independent institutions, and cultural centers. Now if those doors are closed for us we still have the streets to show our work. What I am advising you is that you also look for those alternative spaces, but you should never accept defeat…”

Hermosilla Álvarez made an unwavering lifelong commitment to social justice and to democracy . He and his wife lived among the working people whom he portrayed with dignity and respect. His life and work have been documented in numerous works in Spanish since his death.  In 2012, the University of Playa Ancha created the First Annual Carlos Hermosilla Art Contest.

There are many references to his work in latin Amrican art chronicles, and the University of Colchester, In Essex, England has the largest public collection of his works. He donated thousands of his prints to the Municipality of Viña del Mar and la Universidad de Playa Ancha (renamed from la Escuela de Bellas Artes). A gallery (Sala Hermosilla)was later named in his honor. 

Democracy has once again returned to Chile, through the efforts of millions of Chileans like Carlos Hermosilla Álvarez. The artist and poet lived to see his country’s return to democracy, and now we can see his spectacular prints which spoke of the trials of his countrymen

En Espanol

Carlos Hermosilla Álvarez, dibujante y grabador. Nació en Valparaíso, Chile el 18 de octubre de 1905. Falleció en Viña del Mar el 16 de agosto de 1991.
Ingresó a la Escuela de Arte de la Universidad de Chile en 1930 luego de una difícil infancia y juventud marcada por la pobreza, la     enfermedad y el trabajo en humildes oficios. Fue alumno de Ana Cortés. Inició estudios de grabado en el Taller de Artes Gráficas fundado por Marco Bontá.
Fue profesor de dibujo y grabado de la Escuela de Bellas Artes de Viña del Mar desde 1939, labor en la que destacó como formador de varias generaciones de grabadores chilenos y fundador del Taller de Artes Gráficas de la misma ciudad.

Estrategia Visual
Su carrera artística se desarrolló en el área de la gráfica, el dibujo en grafito y en especial el grabado litografía, xilografía, zincografía, aguafuerte, puntaseca, linóleos y monocopias.
Fue autor de innumerables retratos de personajes públicos de la sociedad chilena, escenas populares y paisajes, en especial el puerto de Valparaíso.
Parte significativa de sus obras son un reflejo del dramatismo que marcó su vida personal y sus esfuerzos por superar las dificultades.
1926 Primer Premio de Acuarelas, Concurso Ateneo Artístico Obrero de Valparaíso, Chile.
1927 Primer Premio de Pintura al Óleo, Concurso Ateneo Artístico Obrero de Valparaíso, Chile.
1936 Mención Honrosa, Salón Oficial de Santiago, Chile.
1936 Segundo Premio grabado Salón de Verano, Viña del Mar, Chile.
1937 Primer Premio Exposición del Cuarto Centenario, Valparaíso, Chile.
1938 Primer Premio Salón Oficial, Santiago, Chile.
1940 Medalla de Oro Exposición de Arte Chileno en Buenos Aires, Argentina.
1945 Primer Premio de Grabadores, Salón de Verano, Viña del Mar, Chile.
1947 Primer Premio de Pintura, Salón de Verano, Viña del Mar, Chile.
1947 Primer Premio de Dibujo, Salón de Verano de Viña del Mar, Chile.
1965 Designado Ciudadano Ilustre de Valparaíso, Chile.
1970 Premiado con un viaje a la República Democrática Alemana y condecorado por la Federación de Artistas Plásticos de la República Democrática Alemana.
1971 Premio Artista del Pueblo, otorgado por el Instituto de Arte Latinoamericano de la Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
1984 Designado Miembro Honorario de la Asociación de Pintores y Escultores de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
1989 Premio Cultural 1989, otorgado por la Asociación de Mujeres Periodistas de la V Región, Valparaíso, Chile.
1990 Premio Especial, Críticos de Arte, Santiago, Chile.

Chile, Brasil, Perú, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Estados Unidos, Francia, República Democrática Alemana, Alemania Federal, Bélgica

Chile, Argentina, Estados Unidos, Brasil, Colombia, Perú, Austria,Uruguay, España, Alemania, Reino Unido.
Obras en Colecciones Públicas



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Anwar Jalal Shemza: A Modernist's Depiction of Islam

 Anwar Jalal Shemza (1928 - 1985) An artist and writer, Shemza was born into an Indian Kashmiri family of carpet makers. He went to school in Lahore, and eventually opened his own commercial art studio in 1947, also in Lahore. He was a leading member of a modernist group called the Lahore Art Circle, and he quickly became a leading figure in Pakistan's cultural life.
He went to England to study art at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London. In 1960, he received a scholarship from the British Council to study printmaking. While he was in Britain, he met and married English artist Mary Katrina, and they had two daughters. Shemza and his wife traveled to Pakistan for several times, but they later settled in Stafford, England, where he taught art and design at area high schools.

Shemza was initially influenced by Modernism most notably Paul Klee although later works also showed a traditional Islamic influence. During the 60s, Shemza incorporated Islamic themes into his work, like using aspects of the prophet Mohammed’s name, imaginary plants and roots derived from Arabic script, and illegible patterns of Arabic letters. Shemza drew inspiration from the strong linear lines in Arabic and Persian calligraphy because he liked their structure, which is geometric yet the forms remain fluid and rhythmic. This blend of calligraphic curves and linear pattern, were suggestive,  to him, of Islamic architectural facades or elaborate patterned designs of Eastern carpets and textiles.
There is something archetypal in Shemza's work, for certain, but there also some loose, mathematical interpretation going on as well. Something about the geometry within the less than precisely geometric shaped sections hints at or unveils a layer of understanding for one's position within their environment. You might think I'm stretching that a bit, but i do sense Shemza's Islamic interests and the emotion behind the formal elements, which is this case is geometry, nature and script. Some of Shemza's images have forms that remind me of abstracted chess pieces, and for all intents and purposes, the practice of chess is a study of rules, positions, and learning to bend those rules to find one's creativity through the structure, I sense something similar happening here, where the study of architecture, having its own set of rules, is a basis for the artist's reinterpretation of formal structure. There is the reference to Klee's playfulness, but Shemza is more focused in his subject's source material. I like his looser hand-drawn craggy lines, and wish I could see more. Alas, there is little in the western archives of this artist's oeuvre. It's another classic case of the accessibility divide between the east and west. Hopefully, Shemza's work will continue to gain recognition.  
Solo exhibitions of Shemza's work were held England, India, Pakistan, and Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. His other accomplishments included being the editor of Ehsas, a magazine on art and architecture. He published seven novels in Urdu as well as poetry. Radio Pakistan often broadcast his plays. 

Selected Exhibitions: 

6th Triennial of World Art, New Delhi, in 1956 
Pakistan National Council of the Arts, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore, in 1960-2;
5th Exhibition of International Prints, Moderna Galerija, Ljubiana, in 1963 
Graphische Sammlung, Vienna, in 1963 
Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art, Durham, in 1963
Treasures from the Commonwealth at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1965 
6th International Print Biennial, Tokyo, in 1968
Commonwealth Institute, Edinburgh, in 1969 
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 1972
1st British International Drawing Biennial, Teeside Art Gallery, in 1973 ( Major Prize recipient) 
Indus Gallery, Karachi, in 1985
the Other Story at Hayward Gallery, London, in 1989-90 
Printmakers of Pakistan at Bradford City Art Gallery & Museum, in 1997-98
Indus Gallery, Karachi, in 1985
Manchester Metropolitan University, in 1992
Birmingham City Museum, in 1997-8
Typo at Ikon, Birmingham, 1999-2000 
Pakistan Another Vision at the Centre of Contemporary Art, Glasgow, in 2000