‘YOU CAN’T SAY THAT IN THIS CITY’ Woodcut, etching, and chine colle, by Kyle Bryant, 40 by 26 inches, 2011.
Essential to printmaking, and non-digital photography, is the frustrating, annoying time lapse between the creation of the matrix and the final image. This technical delay, however, can also turn into an opportunity, an embrace of chance and the unpredictable. "Selected Prints from Pickwick Independent Press" at Rose Contemporary includes a whole array of variables, happy accidents, and attempts at tight control. It is a must-see show for anybody interested not just in the technical aspects of printmaking but its expressive range as well.
Headed by Lisa Pixley, Pickwick Independent Press is located in the Artist Studio Building on Portland's Congress Street and is currently used by 35 artists. This show includes 46 prints by 19 artists. With one exception, all prints are unframed, granting a satisfying opportunity to get up close to surfaces and realize the textural richness of some of the prints. Emily Trenholm's two reduction linocuts, for example, depict pretty traditional floral arrangements using at least five printings; one is all pinks, purples, and oranges; the other greens and browns. Like her paintings, Trenholm's prints are densely packed with interlocking shapes and become textural, tempting us to run our fingers across it. The other extreme is Carrie Scanga's refreshingly spare and delicate etching with charcoal and gouache. Resembling an architect's drawing, line alone describes an arrangement whose skewed perspective results in awkward, unsettling spatial relations. Solidity, support, and flatness explore how space can be occupied.
There are too many remarkable works in between those two opposites; mentioning a few of them must suffice. David Twiss takes full advantage of the strong linearity of woodcuts: his images of animals float on white paper. And while I found his fox too sweet and his gargantuan winged octopus creature too fantastical, his rat and sheep in wolf's skin are perfect: creepy combined with sophisticated linework. They would make great tattoos as well. Channeling German social activist and printmaker Käthe Kollwitz, Lauren Tosswill's woodcut "Retard" depicts a young mongoloid woman whose larger-than-life image demands respect. Pixley clearly revels in mark-making, in the possibilities of white as space and black as identifier of objects, in her powerful forest scene "Lion's Mane." Of equal mastery is Kyle Bryant's "You Can't Say That in This City," my favorite work in the show. He employs various techniques to suggest depth, illusion, and reflection, appropriate to the composition's jumble of urban elements and psychological upheaval.
Clint Fulkerson is represented by four etchings of his idiomatic cell structures. In "Nodule 5" a subtly modulated ground reverberates against dense linework and small, enclosed open areas. The image is cropped as if viewed through a microscope. Pilar Nadal uses letterpress to layer multiple questions and answers, drawing attention to the duplicity and variance of color and language. Irina Skornyakova too includes words in her abstract designs which imaginatively relate to their meaning. In the only work behind glass, even this necessity relates to the thin veils of bluish-gray ink and the word "DREAMS" at its center. In two other works the papers' deckled edges are wonderfully in sync with the wood grain that serves as the printing matrix.