I look forward to Stewart Gallery's annual "The Fine Art of Print" exhibit, since quality printmaking is often overlooked in Boise and because the work chosen by Stephanie Wilde and Lane Buhn is never run-of-the-mill. The one general disappointment about this year's show is its much smaller scale. Only 12 artists are represented, and of those, several participated last year. But this does not diminish the caliber of the art on hand.
In 2004, the event included recognized local, regional and national names, with a smattering of unknowns. This time, the primary focus is on artists unfamiliar to Boise. (The one exception is John Buck, who was shown last year.) Photography also makes a strong showing here, thanks to the gallery's Programs Coordinator Marlow Hoffman, who curated this part of the show.
As a general observation, much of the imagery on view captures or represents fragments of a larger reality, glimpses that hint at an unseen whole. Whether it be the human figure, scenes from private lives, cultural outtakes or abstractions based on natural phenomena, we find ourselves confronting partial views that intrigue and sometimes challenge us.
Such is the case with the photography. All three photographers use Cibachrome (C-print) technology, which means all the images are fairly large, with glowing colors, and a crystalline clarity of surface-leaving one wishing for a little more diversity in the choices.
Andrea Stern's selections from her photographic journal of a New York Jewish family titled "Inheritance" are subtly amusing. In each, individual family members in domestic settings are caught un-posed, snapshot-like, enhancing the sense of the lived moment. The wide-eyed boy staring at us over the back of a black sofa in Ezra, his arm resting casually over the side, looks like he's been discovered behind the wheel of an idling convertible. Julia Grieve's untitled photos are fragmentary sketches, as it were, of people at rest, their presence annotated by isolated facial features or an outcrop of hair.
But it is Elinor Carucci's four C-prints that steal this segment of the exhibit. An Israeli now living in New York, the artist, her husband and mother are caught in private, intimate moments. Carucci is a beauty with black hair and pale skin, and her self-portraits with their rich contrasts of light and dark are arrestingly erotic. In Eran and I, she lies nude next to her husband, and the soft, round forms and pearl-like luminosity of her body give it the look of an odalisque painted by Ingres. Carucci even makes her elderly mother's painted lips look sensual.
Moving on to the printmakers, New Yorker Janis Proviser presents with an abstract three-panel work combining lithography, ink and collage technique. Living on Laight suggests an ancient symbolism, and Proviser's choice of colors and use of gold, copper and silver leaf has an oriental feel, giving her art an exotic, antique look. Next door, the lithography/etchings of Chad Buck from San Francisco are dark, dynamic works. Buck creates his black, spiraling designs using etching needles in a lead ground, and imparts coffee-stain coloration to the paper to give these works a rich warmth. Parable is the most interesting of the three, combining a sense of mystery with a greater variety of forms.
Honolulu artist Hiroki Morinoue's colorful, delicate woodblock, Anchor Stone, is a beauty. Comprised of a series of meditative abstractions based on the surface effects of light on water and stones at the bottom of a moving stream, Anchor Stone has an ethereal, momentary aspect that is captivating. Morinoue's skillful use of color inks and the grain of the woodblock gives the work the look of woven fabric. The artist works like a Zen master.
Mark Perlman is represented by four untitled monoprints, the better two of which combine the genres of still life and action painting. In terms of color, use of line and gestural technique, these are very reminiscent of Cy Twombly's abstractions, and they achieve a painterly quality through layers of color wash, pigment and wax.
Brad Brown's freeform art is all about working with fragments. Using stockpiled preliminary figurative and abstract drawings as source materials, he "culls poetic fragments" for laying down on his plates for printing in various combinations. In True West, the resulting images, somehow, make visual sense and don't look collaged.
Probably the most unusual work is Enrique Chagoya's "codex," an accordion-formatted, multi-panel work replicating that ancient book form. Entitled Abenteuer der Kannibalen Bioethicists (Adventures of the Cannibal Bioethicists), this remarkable piece combines three print mediums and collage, appropriating images from cultures ranging from Pre-Columbian to 20th century American. Chagoya's theme is the rewriting of history and cannibalizing of ideas, images and objects by "dominant cultures," but this is not an angry work. Its blatantly Pop Art look and sensibility lightens the touch, and we are awed by its encyclopedic complexity.