"Publishing Printshops: VanDeb Editions/ Olive Branch Press" highlights the work of two print collectives. VanDeb, founded in 1999, is based in New York City and is owned by artists Marjorie Van Dyke and Deborah Freedman. The OBP is the publishing arm of Ithaca's own Ink Shop. The show — which fills both the Shop and the CSMA lobby downstairs — will be up through February 28.
The selection from Van Deb is broad rather than deep; artists are represented with one or two works. Abstraction is the focus — often with a pronounced retro-modernist feel, occasionally in a more idiosyncratic, quasi-figurative vein.
Effectively taking up the latter strand, Mark Mullin's square-shaped intaglio A Growing Time offers oddly schematic weather. Black clouds — clusters of horizontal ovals — crowd the left and (especially) right edges. A row of three similar ovals hover above-center; their centers glow blue-green. They trail upright stripes of translucent gray that fade in the distance below. These could be cloudlets — or flying saucers. Clouds and saucers alike drop short bursts of dash-rain. Filling the center and reaching to the bottom edge is a block of yellow-green, actually a dense web of looping lines dotted with the (fainter) ghosts of clouds.
Likewise is Lorraine Williams' They Are Indescribable Alike, which suggests an aquarium bearing alien life. The mixed-media intaglio print features a varied menagerie of forms, all immersed in a faintly brushy, dirty-orange sea. A spongy purple blob, clusters of darker orange whiplash grass, and dots and splotches of (orange and purple) color mostly keep their distance.
Chris Gianakos and John Schiff work more familiar terrains of geometric abstraction. Gianakos' aquatint Metropolis III shows an irregular six-sided polygon, red, and starkly silhouetted against thin, pale pink. In contrast, Schiff's monoprint Word Shimmering is dizzyingly complex, puzzle-like — this despite its simple palate: uninflected red, white, and black plus various grainy grays. Right-angled triangles and other angular shapes radiate out from a central point like a pinwheel. These shapes are often richly patterned inside, with forms both curvaceous and stiff.
Some of the VanDeb abstractions feel a bit dissolute. For example, Mark Saltz's September I, September II (aquatint and spit bite) is reminiscent of the organic, calligraphic webs of contemporary artists like Brice Marden and Terry Winters; the colors though seem anemic.
There is more figurative work from VanDeb as well. Mel Pekarsky's Dry suggests Cezanne in the desert, but has its own starkly beautiful character. A black and white etching, it gives a view of a sparsely planted landscape, composed variously of softly linear hatching, smudges, dots, and dark line-branchings — all against a light gray background. Slope is hinted at: from the upper left towards the lower right.
K.K. Kozik's surreal, storybook-like Force Majeure combines etching and aquatint. A pink-skinned, white haired man sits up in bed, white and baby blue sheets and shirt gathered up around him. Above and behind him is a window with blowing curtains (also pale blue). It covers purple night sky. He looks right-of-page where a pair of closed closet doors seem to frame views of a giant, pale yellow, grey pocked moon — and that same sky. The line-work is adept, mostly quick and informal; there are spots of hatching.
Among other things, the Olive Branch is showing artists' books.
Maddy Rosenberg's mesmerizing, toy-like Dystopia is stood up inside a vitrine. More like a stage tableau than a conventional page-turner, it is variously folded, tabbed and cut. Done in brown ink on cream paper, it shows the stiff lines and blocky forms (light and dark) characteristic of its medium, linocut. Not particularly dystopian in feel, it shows a playfully fragmented jumble of Gothic and other old-fashioned architectures: spires, towers, domes, pediments, arched windows, brick.
Zevi Blum presents five black and white etchings (unbound) from his book When I Did Not Die, each paired with a poem by Judith Levey-Kurlander. Crisply linear and ornate in style, the subjects are fanciful and folkloric — a fancy that does not mask their often eroticized morbitity.
Abstraction is the predominant framework in this show. Peter Jogo's mezzotint Song of Route 83 II stands out for its sharp, detailed realism. (Jogo showed related work in a one-person show here last summer.) Approximately the size of a playing card, it shows a panoramic highway-side vista: trees, slant-roofed buildings, tiny telephone poles and wires, a light outlined guardrail tilting up rightwards from the lower left. Above is a cloudy sky: pale yellow, faint orange, shades of gray. The sun is going up or down. Song effectively evokes the loneliness of road travel.
The Ink Shop's member roster is impressively diverse (and accomplished) to begin with. Pairing selected members with a similarly talented group of outsiders is an excellent way of mixing up the familiar and the unfamiliar.