Despite all the new media chatter I’ve heard (and participated in) over the past few years, and in defiance of the woeful decline of print publishing, there has been a burgeoning revival of some very old media indeed. Printmaking, typography, letterpress and other crafty book arts have never been stronger.
In a way, it makes sense. As more of the stuff of our lives comes directly from the assembly line, and as our communications become ever more ephemeral and digitized, perhaps a corollary hunger for the handmade, for something precious we can hold in our hands, is only natural. What’s more, printmaking is truly the most proletarian of arts. If you can’t afford an original painting, you can certainly find a distinctive print that suits your fancy. Fine press chapbooks, individually bound and, perhaps, even made with handmade paper or stylishly designed letterpress goods are, likewise, widely accessible.
From the artisans in the ranks of organizations like Highpoint Center for Printmaking or the Northern Printmakers’ Alliance to the entrepreneurial artists behind Studio On Fire and other similar indie printing outfits — here in Minnesota, there’s something for every taste, from traditionalists looking for engraved wedding invitations to punk poster aficionados to fine art lovers.
This weekend, in the new exhibition, “Press Gang,” you can see work by eight established local printmakers, working in a variety of styles and techniques, each of whom has been exploring the creative niches and boundaries of printmaking for years. The luminary line-up of artists includes Chris Forsythe, Mary Leikvold, Karl Nelson, Faye Passow, Joanne Price, Jodi Reeb-Myers, Jan Shoger and Anna Tsantir.
From letterpress to lithographs to intaglio prints and woodcuts — seeing the sheer variety of moods and techniques represented in the work on view in “Press Gang” is a wonderful way to get a sense of the breadth of possibilities in the medium and to hone your appreciation for the accomplishments of the printmakers working in your own backyard.
“Press Gang: Eight Local Printmakers” opens at Stevens Square Center for the Arts on Saturday, May 2, with a free reception from 7 to 10 p.m. (and live music by the jazz band Bigbody Applehead). The exhibition will be on view through May 24.