Set nearly 30 artists loose in the sky-lit workrooms of Highpoint Center for Printmaking on Lake Street in Minneapolis and what you get is "Art Formally Known as Prints," a lively potpourri of abstractions, humorous vignettes, landscapes, moody moonrise scenes, comic riffs and other idiosyncratic imagery.
The images have been executed in such challenging media as intaglio, etching, collage, drypoint and screen printing. The techniques are too complicated to explain in brief, but suffice to say that these are high-quality images produced by professional artists, recent art school grads or talented hobbyists. Given the eclectic mix of talents and training, the results are impressive and the prices -- many items under $100 -- are low enough to tempt even a seriously malingering Santa.
The casual, non-thematic installation is very inviting. A pair of "Tempest" intaglio-collages by Roberta Allen seem to be pictures of nothing much -- just quick tangles of lines that suggest wind-tossed twigs and branches whose sketchy, shimmering presence has a snappish, memorable urgency. At first they seem identical, but of course they're not. The lines in one are greenish-black, the other golden tan, suggesting the way the light shifts when clouds pass or seasons change. There is something deeply appealing about these technically demanding images poised so perfectly on the cusp of abstraction.
Nearby hangs Margaret Bussey's "Lost in Fog," a beautifully moody nude whose plump, unglamorous self is absorbed in thought as darkness settles around her. Travis Erickson's two "American Translation" abstractions introduce a strong Japanese air, consisting of layers of delicate paper collaged into T-shaped designs that hang on the page like kimonos on display.
Among several landscape-themed images, Clara Ueland's intaglio prints "Vista" and "After the Storm" stand out for their persuasive illusions of light on water. In her "Metamorphic Strata 5," Anna Orbovich depicts geologic layers as an abstract design that alternates horizontal ribbons of marbleized, grainy and angular rock so jittery it seems electrified.
A keen observer of urban life, Miriam Rudolph offers several views of "McDermot Avenue," which she renders as a frieze of buildings and streets animated with strolling shoppers, bicycles, clipped trees and a charmingly embossed "sky" that resembles an old-fashioned pressed-tin ceiling ornamented with starry snowflake patterns. Though they verge on preciousness, her scenes are saved from excess cuteness by their fresh designs.
Taking a more modernist approach, Josh Binderwald uses drypoint, chine collé and screen-printing to deploy lines and planes of color to suggest buildings. He doesn't describe places so much as the idea of built space, those peculiar arrangements of angled glass, mirrors and girders that could be a sleek shelter. Or not. The result is a visualization of that conceptual moment where architecture meets computer motherboard meets map. Clever.
Lisl Gaal, an emeritus professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota, began making art decades ago for her children, and now always inserts a math concept or numerical footnote into her hand-colored lithographs. In "Cubes: In, Out and On," she treats cubes as building blocks, carnival rides and buildings over which tiny people clamber as if scaling the pyramids. "Calculus is for change" offers a charming highrise impression of downtown Minneapolis landmarks (IDS Tower, City Hall) with measuring devices artfully arranged in the foreground.
Fresh ideas burble everywhere in this generous-hearted show where pop patterns, surrealism, environmental musings, poetry, nocturnal ramblings -- all these and more find outlets in a cornucopia of self-expression.
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