Wednesday, October 29, 2008


From the mail (with minor edits):
Dear Associates and Friends of The Ink Shop,

After carefully weighing all the pros and cons, The Ink Shop Board of Directors recently voted to stay at our new location on the 2nd floor of the Community School of Music and Art Building. We feel we have a great future here and want to continue to develop our exhibit and workshop programming. CSMA has agreed that we will be able to exhibit in the Hallway Gallery the whole year around and the Lobby Gallery for four months every year. We discussed helping to coordinate additional shows in the CSMA gallery space with artists doing interesting work, whether installations, video, or other media. We are excited about these possibilities and look forward to your involvement in all aspects.

Beginning in November, The Ink Shop and CSMA will showcase all artists/instructors that are currently teaching in both places. That is our first adventure in collaboration. We also will discuss with CSMA about collaborating on a series of parent/kids workshops in the summer months.

As for the Holidays, we will have a Grand Opening Party on December 5, during Gallery Night at the Opening of the last exhibition of this year, "Fine Edge", which will showcase nine artists. As in previous years , we will start the Holiday Print Sale at that opening and we will also offer an offset printed calendar with images from Ink Shop Artists.

Looking ahead, we have planned an exciting schedule of exhibitions for 2009:

*Van Deb Editions with cutting edge of intaglios from Marjorie Van Dyke's studio

*an installation of Lisa Mackie's prints and books, both from New York City.

*a one person show with Zevi Blum, Professor Emeritus from Cornell, now living in California.

*We invite our associates to exhibit with us in "Exquisite Corpse", a game of prints in March 2009

*a Monotype Printing Event in April

*a portfolio of prints "12x12" in preparation for our 10th Anniversary in 2010!

Watch for applications for open exhibits on The Ink Shop website:

Hopefully, you already have planned to take a workshop with us, and have marked your calendar for the upcoming Talk Print with Minna Resnick and Susan Weisend on their print adventure in China last year on Thursday October 30, 7 -8 pm.

Please also take a look at Caleb R. Thomas exhibition "Balancing on Rooftops" which goes though November 17. He will give a gallery tour on Thursday November 13, 7-8pm.

Last but not least, we would like you to come down and meet our new H. Peter Kahn Fellow Jamie Ellen Davies who started to work with us in September.

Our heartfelt thanks to all of you for all of your support to The Ink Shop as move beyond recent disruption and toward renewed artistic excellence and opportunity.

Join the creative spirit,

Christa Wolf
for the Board of Directors

missing the forest for the trees

Barbara Page, Time's Magic Carpet, watercolor

From this week's Ithaca Times:
MOTE hosts Barbara Page exhibition

Arthur Whitman

Silhouettes resembling cut-away tree stumps contain strange two-dimensional micro-worlds, densely packed with forms that feel organic but are hard to place: microbial blobs and tubes, evocations of aerial views of land and water, concentric striations focusing the eye inward. The palate is autumnal: purples, browns, yellows, oranges, grays and silvers, broken occasionally by bits of green and other (often unexpected) colors.

Such forms and associations characterize the watercolors that make up Barbara Page's intriguing new show "Missing the Forest for the Trees." These paintings are currently on display at The Museum of the Earth. The natural history museum setting is appropriate, as her near-abstractions depict cross-sections of petrified wood: fossils in which gradual mineral accretions both replace and immortalize the original organic matter.

These artworks are clearly the products of close observation and careful rendering. (Visitors will want to compare them with the actual mineral specimens on display.) Nevertheless, the artist's stated goal is to invoke a state of romantic "reverie," and to evoke associations with vastly different types of environments, from the physiological to the geographical. Although the show is uneven, the best work on show achieves both with considerable grace.

There's a somewhat tedious repetitiveness to "Missing." With the exception of one monoprint (Tietea), these are all watercolors. The color is often too thinned and ineffectual. Nearly every single piece shows a roughly round or rectangular shape the petrified cut-away silhouetted against paper white. Typically, at one or more points, the shape is cut-off at the edges. This regularity and detachment preserves the fossil's specimen-like character while inhibiting closer engagement.

While the juxtaposition of (relatively) dark and clearly outlined forms against white backgrounds calls to mind the minimal abstractions of Ellsworth Kelly, the intricate inner patterning of these silhouettes allows for a very different sort of tension from Kelly's uninflected geometry. How well this tension is played out is a fairly good indicator of how effective each of these paintings is in general.

Fandango #15 is a standout piece in this and many other regards. The fossil image is unusually dark, dominated by pools of black and dark gray, which makes it pop out (or draw us in). It has a visual weight, which pushes towards the lower right corner. There is a lot going on. A brief anatomical list: lakes of color; stiff, branch-like rivers in contrasting tones; curving, racing streaks of white; a warm, lightly colored clearing in the middle, dotted. The specimen and the painting has an irrepressible dynamism that belies its literal deadness. (There is an analogy here, painting and fossil.)

Two pieces escape the central silhouette format, creating a greater sense of dislocation in the viewer, who is plunged further into their alien worlds. The patterned surfaces engulf nearly the entire paper. Although not fully effective, this approach demands further exploration. Far Fling is the more familiar of the two, with its roughly concentric ordering and cell-like forms. Split is something else entirely; its all-over marking suggests a chaotic tangle of rivers, lakes, and islands. There is a weird and again not quite successful tension between the piece's Abstract Expressionist-like wildness and it's typically tight rendering and wan, thinned-out color.

Visitors to the MotE will have two comparative benchmarks. One is Page's own epic natural history Rock of Ages Sands of Time, which is permanently installed right beyond the museum's lobby. The mixed-media piece represents 550 million years of evolution in a sequence of panels and skillfully combines painting and relief. The other is an impressive selection of real wood fossils, displayed in scattered vitrines. (Some of these are marked as sources for specific paintings.) Both display a richly engrossing feel, which unfortunately leaves all but the best of the watercolors looking weak in comparison.

Page is clearly engaged in a fascinating project. Deriving abstraction from the close observation of nature, "aerial" perspective, organism-as-landscape all of these are ideas worth pursuing. I would like to see a greater experimentation with composition, format, and media. It is not clear, for example, that watercolor is serving this dense, complex work very well. There is a need in this work both for illustrational precision and painterly lushness something difficult to pull of in any medium but particularly so in watercolor, which offers limited potential for revision.

It would also be useful to vary the size of the works more. The standard format here is 22' by 30', a safe, middle-of-the-road landscape format, which fails to do justice to the subjects' essential strangeness. Working big or small would alter the relation of our perceiving bodies to these micro-worlds in potentially exciting ways.

Friday, October 24, 2008

microworlds roundup

I have a pair of reviews coming up. One, which will be appearing in next week's Ithaca Times, addresses Barbara Page's new show of watercolors "Missing the Forest for the Trees." The paintings show slices of petrified wood, fossils rich in microcosmic detail. They are both carefully observed and abstract. The show is markedly uneven. Nevetheless, this is a rich vein of work, well worth following. "Missing" is on show now and through January 18th at the Museum of the Earth (Ithaca's natural history museum).

My second piece, to be appearing here only, delves into Christa Wolf's "Satterly Hill" monotypes, which were in a recently closed exhibit at the Main Street Gallery. This was an amazing show, so sorry if you live in the area and missed it. Expect my review some time this weekend.

More items of personal or topical interest:

* Nancy Geyer wrote a fine review of the Wolf show for the Times. My own take is different but
I believe complementary.

* During my junior year of high school (96-97), I attended this fine Connecticut private school, about an hour's drive from Boston. Subsequently, I got booted out as a poor student. But not before receiving eye-opening instruction from David Brewster, an excellent and energetic plein air oil landscapist. I believe that I acquired, then and there, a taste for gestural and painterly painting, one which persists to this day.

Anyway, David got a nice write-up in the June/July issue of Art New England. And check out the work on his site while you're there
it kicks.

* "Within Four Miles: The Work of Josh Dorman," the Brooklyn artist's first retrospective, is on display at LA's Craft and Folk Art Museum. He has some interesting things to say about his altered-map paintings in this LA Times article:
"I'm flattered to feel that my work can be viewed as 'folk art,' as some sort of natural product," he wrote in a recent e-mail. The contrivances, slickness and irony of much contemporary art puts him out of sync with the current moment, though he feels some kinship with James Siena and Daniel Zeller, whose meticulous line drawings, he surmises, have something to do with asserting control of a small, self-contained world when "we've lost control and we've lost having our say in the greater world."
I don't think I'm going to make it out to the West Coast this winter like I did the last. But I do see that he is also showing in New York City, in yet another cartographically themed group show. (I last encountered his work in the flesh a couple of years back in a show entitled "Personal Geographies" at Hunter College.)

* Also for to visit NYC: "Giorgio Morandi, 1890-1964" at the Met. A review by Peter Schjeldahl and social commentary by Terry Teachout (the latter via And on Flickr (why not?).

* More map-as-art and again by a former teacher of mine: Mara Metcalf's delicate, nearly-monochromatic ink on paper micro-scapes.

*Related: fiction writer Steven Milhauser in the NYT on miniatures and recursion (see also and for example).