This past weekend, I visited Austin to see PrintAustin: The Contemporary Print at Big Medium. One of my works was included in the show, and I was looking forward to seeing the exhibit before it closed on February 16th.
The exhibit featured artwork from 35 artists and explored both traditional and innovative approaches to printmaking. My piece Coast in Distance #1 represents a traditional approach. It is a monotype that I created by inking a plexi plate with etching ink, removing ink using brushes and swabs, placing printmaking paper on top of the plate, and passing it through the press. Edgar Degas used this technique, which MoMa covers well in this video.
I recognized techniques like screen printing, lithography, intaglio, etching, and linoleum cut block printing. However, there were many less familiar processes like “soap ground and spit bite aquatint and drypoint”, “photopolymer gravure”, “solarplate intaglio”, “mezzotint”, and “collagraph”.
Thankfully, YouTube provides an endless library of videos to research some of these processes. After watching these videos for a couple of hours, I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to learn about every process in a single night, so I moved on. Below are some of my favorites.
I find printmaking, particularly when it involves a press, to bring together the best elements of drawing and darkroom photography. There is a mark making component, but there are also multiple steps, sometimes intricate steps, that involve machinery and tools that you can only have so much control over. It creates a mystique that you have to respond to and build upon.
At the exhibit, I was drawn to a piece by Christine Meuris. It combined screen printing and sewing. The piece Ivory Bargello Refraction is second to the right in the photo below.
In her artist statement, Meuris explains that she “sew[s] paper as a way to reinterpret and explore the continuing value of handicraft traditions in our times”. Whatever the purpose, her work inspires, excites, and calms all at the same time.
I have been interested in the juxtaposition of threadwork since I was first introduced to it in 2011 while I was studying photography at NYU. Carolle Benitah’s Photo-Souvenirs were exhibiting at VII Gallery which I visited with my class. I enjoyed how Benitah drew (with thread) on top of her family photos. The threadwork added commentary, revealed, and foreshadowed. Most importantly, it questioned what was originally portrayed.
The Contemporary Print was was organized in partnership with PrintAustin and juried by Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. Big Medium, where the exhibit was held, produces the East Austin Studio Tour, the West Austin Studio Tour, and the Texas Biennial. It is located at Canopy in East Austin which is similar in many ways to Winter/Spring Street in Houston.
After The Contemporary Print, I visited Mass Gallery which is located in a standalone building in East Austin. Their exhibition INTERWOVEN features the work of six arts who work in textiles. In other words, I saw more stitch work!
Works by Orly Cogan and Fort Lonesome drew me in. Cogan’s work undoubtedly explores the feminine and the role of women. I enjoyed how she uses embroidery, a medium historically reserved for women, to create imagery that confronts and questions feminine archetypes. Stylistically, it is whimsical yet serious.
Fort Lonesome’s work, on the other hand, focuses on landscapes and the unique qualities that chainstitch embroidery can create. I am having trouble identifying exactly why I enjoyed her work. I just know I did enjoy it.
Next, I visited Women & Their Work. They are located near The University of Texas on Lavaca. In their main gallery, Women & Their Work is showing Hedwige Jacobs’s exhibition If I could, I would cover everything with my drawings. No, embroidery is not featured. Part installation and part video, the exhibit is a meditation of observation.
Jacobs’s work is playful yet contemplative. I felt joy and calm throughout the exhibit. Something about the exhibit invites the viewer closer and farther away at the same time.
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in Austin. While The Contemporary Print is no longer showing, you can still visit INTERWOVEN through March 2nd and If I could, I would cover everything with my drawings through February 28th. If you do visit these exhibitions, please share your thoughts on either or both in the comment section below.
How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic
Severance by Ling Ma
Happy Yoga by Steve Ross
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