Our region has an impressive set of printmakers who consistently breathe new life into the medium, whether they employ traditional techniques or flout convention. Under the direction of its energetic president, Adam Werth, The Print Club of Rochester is celebrating its 86th anniversary with an exhibition currently on display at SUNY Brockport's Tower Fine Arts Gallery.
"The annual members show continues to grow into a larger, more community-based exhibition," Werth says. "In years past it was presented in more intimate and private venues as a show by members of the print club for members of the print club." By presenting the show at SUNY Brockport, the club gains visibility with a larger community, and the work and artists are accessible to students enrolled in visual art programs both at the University as well as nearby Brockport High School, he says.
In addition to leading the club, Werth is an avid collector of prints and a printmaker himself. His giant monoprint, "The Feeling I Get," provides instant impact. Positioned facing the entrance of the space, the simple print is of huge, stark, call-caps letters that read: "BIG DISAPPOINTMENT." Printed using cheap materials, and offering it for $1, Werth is basing the value of the work entirely on its message.
He says he means for the work to be ambiguous, requiring the audience to make judgments regarding its intention, but that it is both a reflection of the arenas where he has been let down, "politically, in the art world, in humanity..." as well as the fear of letting others down. "I am interested in self-reflection and action as a means to self-actualization," he says.
This print is a continuation of Werth's series that also includes the work "I AM BETTER THAN THIS," which was featured in Rochester Contemporary's "Under Pressure" exhibit earlier this year. That one is just as stark; its title text is printed on a small piece of crumpled and uncrumpled paper, forming the very picture of "(un)certainty."
The subject matter in Wendy J. Forrest's woodcut prints have the artist living up to her name. The sylvan scenes are alternately cheerful and stark — "Summer Birches" is a bright flash of energetic ink, while "Snowy Pine" is a stripped down, bleak yet beautiful winter vista.
Nicholas H. Ruth's radiant screenprint and colored pencil work, "Alone at Last," features two communications towers that feel vaguely figurative, and immediately conveys a sense of technology both extending and hampering connection. Beyond the subjects, cloudlike forms in an empty landscape seem to crackle with static energy, and acidic colors edge into a trippy, surreal territory.
Take a spin around Ruth's website and you'll see more work in this vein, as well as his concise artist statement. "In my work, I spontaneously explore the anxious and funny ways in which we litter our lives with the artifacts of our desires," he writes. "Our buildings are covered with satellite dishes, extending our reach at the same time that we withdraw to the interior."
Tarrant Clements' untitled, bold carborundum collagraphs combine geometric patterns presented in pleasant asymmetry with flat, vibrating hues. Depth is derived from wispy texture applied to some planes.
Bob Conge, maker of rad collectible art toys under the name Plaseebo, has two large, digital drypoint prints in the biennial. The technique is one he developed to create images that have similar line qualities as engravings, without the use of metal plates and acids.
From an ongoing series, Conge's "Poolside with E. E. Cummings" and "Poolside with Picasso" each depicts nude figures in roughly rendered lines, and allusions to the artistic style of each print's respective subject. Conge says that the prints are not intended to be pretty pictures; he wants them to "evoke the raspy and raw emotion of an encounter with the force" of what he perceives would have been the individual's persona.
"I am exploring portrait-like images of painters, poets, writers, etc. whose work I am moved by and wish I could have known personally," Conge says. "The common visual and conceptual thread in the series is the "stage" of an outdoor pool where people present themselves with few of the defensive daily trappings that often disguise who they are. The pool is like a "No Mans Land" in a war, where we are all unclothed in neutral territory."
The exhibit's juror, Cynthia Hawkins, director and curator of SUNY Geneseo's Lederer Gallery, selected Elizabeth Durand's dreamy intaglio monoprint "Walking Mavis at Night" for the Best in Show award. Durand combined layered images of terrain, a topographical map, and the silhouette of a frolicking dog with subdued and slightly electric pigment.
"Durand fragmented the page as a triptych to portray the narrative and also turned what might have become a mere night scene into a temporally displaced spatial scene making it slightly surreal," Hawkins writes.