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Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Power of Printmaking

Exhibiting the best from around the world

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Is there a theme binding the “Makers In Print: International Exhibition” (through March 24 at UW-Milwaukee’s Inova, and March 23 at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design’s Frederick Layton Gallery)?

Yes, but it goes beyond printmaking techniques (many and varied), and into the realm of cultural struggles. When artists put thoughts on paper, there’s power in print, and the history of printmaking is all about “getting the word out.” Credit is due for the unfailing skills of Inova’s Bruce Knackert and MIAD’s printmaking professor Paul Mitchell (the new guy in town). Together they showcased the best from around the world and ensured the success of this 41st conference of the Southern Graphics Council (SGCI). For more (and there is much more) information on the council, visit: sgcinternational.org, or for this year’s installment: printmke2013.org.

The day I visited Inova/Kenilworth, students sprawled throughout the galleries putting thoughts to laptops while pondering specific prints. Raised in a digital era, what images would they choose to express themselves? Bursts of color from Mexico, silken whispers from South Korea’s Sanggon Chung, or perhaps the painterly lithographs on the south wall? In nearby intimate spaces, Madison’s Frances Myers is honored for her years of excellence in a field demanding dedicated discipline and a certain fondness for ink stains.

The prints in MIAD’s Frederick Layton Gallery are equally masterful, in particular, the tsunami of works from China, which include some amazing expressions of basketball games, war machines and weary miners. I was relieved that it was short on images of fish and other motifs often associated with China, but I was certainly attracted to three calm and elegant black and white woodcuts (depicting fruits and two spectacular versions of lotus flowers) by Jun Guang. Poland’s Grzegorz Hańderek blasted forth with his chilling trio Cooling Towers—simple shapes defining nuclear terror.

Fortunately, MIAD printmaking alumni have found their place in the scheme of things as well. In tandem with the Institute’s larger offerings, a juried exhibition (“Making Connections”) in the Brooks Stevens Gallery, signals that our local talent holds its own among global greats…lest you forget.