While many mediums have a constant back and forth debate between an emphasis towards using traditional, conventional methors or more recently available techniques, printmaker Carolyn Frischling does not concern herself with the argument. The Pittsburgh-based artist investigates new techniques in both image creation and printing methods, while continuing to honor the constantly-evolving history of the medium. “I’m proud that printmaking comes out of a long line of democratic, inclusive ideals, that today is at the forefront of technology and creativity.” Like many makers of prints, Frischling uses several simultaneous techniques to achieve the airy and colorful visual textures in her work, differentiated only by the image creation beforehand using computer editing programs. When asked by Beautiful/Decay to explain the benefits of working digitally versus using traditional methods, Frischling first explains, “Digital art enables me to use the same thought processes of traditional printmaking without the toxicity of using traditional materials on a daily basis.”
These moody and ethereal digital works are printed with archival inks on paper, silk, glass and aluminum, heavy with an abstract beauty attached to their process. Frischling further explains her methodology, “Digital printmaking is incredibly nuanced. There is so much more I can do that I couldn’t do in traditional printmaking, although the only reason I understand digital as well as I do, is because the thought processes are the very same. Sometimes I do miss the physicality involved in other kinds of art-making, but my art isn’t about physicality, so I think in this instance,”The medium is the message.”
Ultimately, whether created by physical process or digital manipulation, the works speak for themselves with strong compositions, moody palates, delicate forms and attest to the time spent mastering any artistic discipline. When Frischling explains, “My instinct is always to create movement and energy through use of color and form”, it is a goal separate from process and more located in ambition.
Crystal Wagner’s installations are a combination of printmaking, cut paper, and cheap, dollar store objects. Her work has a very organic feel to it, as if we are about to walk through a luscious forest or happen upon a moss patch. This isn’t surprising, as Wagner has spent a lot of time immersed in nature, spending extended periods in Yellowstone National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. The large, site specific works convey the awe-inspiring beauty we experience in places like Old Faithful.
Using items like police caution tape, chicken wire and table cloths, the artist crafts multi-layered and complex forms that occupy walls, floors, and everyday spaces. I’m reminded of green wall technology, in which moss grows decoratively on walls and gardens. It is not only good for the environment, but visually dazzles. This is much like Wagner’s work, which uses what already exists in our world to create a calming, tranquil environment.
Wagner has a formal education in printmaking, and this training works to her advantage. She is able to refine her installations by adding intricate prints of forms that look like vines and petals. It contrasts nicely with her construction, which focuses more on structure and building volume. These are the heart of Wagner’s installation, and tell us the most about the essence of her work.
Using both printmaking and embroidery in his work, artist Max Colby explores themes of death and transformation in his series Role Play. He first prints on handmade paper, creating a collograph. This type of printmaking applies materials to a rigid board. Things with a lot of texture like sandpaper, leaves, cardboard are inked and printed. Colby has controlled the shape of the print, manipulating it in a very deliberate way. Once printing is done, he then adorns it with hand-sewn embroidery.
In a short statement about his work, Colby refers to his the imagery in his work as “figures,” which I take to mean as beings. Not necessarily human, but some other living force. Their “body” is made out from printing, while the embroidery acts as embellishment for the figure. Colby writes that Role Play features “sculptural ‘skins’ which showcase fragility and temporality in conjunction with highly embellished and extravagant applications using notions of death and transformation as a catalyst.” I imagine that these could be armor or headdresses, with pieces that have spikes sewn-in or tactile objects like beads and buttons.
There is a stark difference between the delicate collograph printing and the visually-heavy embroidery. At times, it engulfs the figures, which I think is the point. Garments last a lot longer than we do. Items are passed down from generation to generation, and evidence of what a jacket looked like will be surpass our lifetime.
Joseph Parra is an artist working with the human portrait and figure. While he obviously draws and paints very well, Parra is not necessarily concerned with perfectly replicating what someone looks like. He finds this notion limiting to an artist; after all, a photo or realistic painting can only go so far. You’ve made someone look like their outward appearance, but now what?
Parra strives to delve deeper into the figure or portrait and reveal what is unseen. His work questions what it means to be human using a couple of different methods. One way is through layers. Aside from a portrait, he adds of media that distorts the face or the body. Parra scrapes, pricks, and sands his subjects. In his words, this is “acting as reminders that we are merely a union of ideas.” Additionally, he will cut, braid, or fold paper as a way to express the complex nature of humanity. Oneself (directly below) is the same portrait but manipulated in three different ways. It references the fractured, multiple, and twisted ways we often view ourselves. Some days we think we’re great, while others we are loathsome.
Much of Parra’s work is screen prints and digital prints, which I think enhance his ideas and again parallels the human experience. We see these images mutilated and/or distorted, and they look very textural. Yet up close, they are mostly reproduced images and have a smooth sheen – the rawness is kept contained. I compare it to having a friend who appears very put together on the surface, but beneath you know they are a mess.
Parra was featured last year on Beautiful/Decay, not long after graduating college. Since then, he’s created more work that focuses on the braiding or manipulating of paper, which are some of my favorite pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing where Parra goes from here.
Katie Scott is an illustrator and printmaker from England. Her works are equal parts 19th century science illustration and tarot card mysticism. Once you look at them long enough, all plants, and living organisms in general, start looking like inspired sculptures. Check out everything on her website, then go to the park and look at the plants!
Oakland-based artist Grady Gordon produces ghoulish black and white monotype prints. The knowledge that each image is unique contributes to a sense that the figures depicted are real. That at any moment they could leave the paper and enter your nightmares. Until this year, Gordon only depicted heads in his work; the full figures definitely amplify the gruesome vibe. But the heads definitely have their appeal as well- leering faces that move in and out of swirling blacks. Gordon is having a solo show in Denver in October. Some of these works will be on view then.
The best way to stay current with the world of Grady Gordon is to follow the dude on instagram @joaquindead. Don’t blame me if you never sleep again though. More full figures and previews of the Denver show after the jump.
MICA 2012 printmaking grad James Bouché is doing some really dark, meditative work touching on themes of history, death, and decay. Yeah- it’s something we’d like. Bouché’s lithographs and screen prints of desolate wastelands, crumbling artifacts, and dead soldiers hit the tone pretty well. There’s almost like an arcane magic at work here, as though the artist is in touch with the ancient Mayans, transmitting 2012 death knells via ink on paper. But even if such sinister implications are completely imagined, the works’ ability to generate them in the first place is pretty special. But I’m still hoping that James is talking to the Mayans anyway. That’d be pretty cool.
Joseph Parra, who received his BFA in Painting this year from MICA, has started his career with a running start. Back in 2008, he worked with famed architect Richard Gehry as part of HBO’s Masterclass, and last year he completed a solo show at Galerie M in Milwaukee, WI. He distorts portraits of absentminded subjects with unorthodox techniques, employing sand paper and collage. Parra’s charcoal drawings, also figurative in nature, are equally of note. His drawings (like his prints) are ghostly. His figures are presented with little distraction, no context or background. This demonstrates a confidence in his image making. He’s showing us exactly what he wants us to see.