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    

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