Printmakers, photographers, and artists who push printmaking and photography into startling new territories grace local art galleries this month. ,
Printmakers, photographers, and artists who push printmaking and photography into startling new territories grace local art galleries this month.
“La Manière Noire: International Mezzotint Exhibition”
Dozens of contemporary artists from around the globe make striking use of a centuries-old medium in this group exhibit at Kirkland Arts Center, assembled by Redmond artist-curator E. Valentine DeWald, II.
“La Manière Noire” (“The Black Way” in French) tends toward the shadowy. As DeWald explains in his introductory comments, mezzotint is “a tonal engraving process” once used to reproduce famous paintings, especially portraits, from the 17th century to the 19th century (when the invention of photography rendered it obsolete). With its potential for fine shading, fluidity of line and exacting detail, the mezzotint rivals the most intricate pencil, ink or charcoal drawing.
DeWald himself is an expert practitioner, and his pieces are a highlight of the show. In “Aurora,” the flyaway hairs of a genderless face double as streaks of the aurora borealis. In “Pearl,” an elderly woman’s face and the wing-patterns of the moths flying around her have an unsettling hyperreality.
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Jeremy Plunkett’s fastidious renderings of empty plastic shopping bags drifting in dark voids do something similar. Jayne Reid Jackson’s mysterious still lifes, “Fallen Star” and “The Unkindest Cut,” transform ordinary glassware into disorienting fugue-like studies of shadow-play and light-distortion.
Dreamy, macabre, obsessive and astute, “La Manière Noire” has something for every taste.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays through Nov. 25. Kirkland Arts Center, 620 Market St., Kirkland; free (425-822-7161 or www.kirklandartscenter.org).
“Notions of Home”
Just as varied is Photographic Center Northwest’s group exhibition exploring the forms that “home” can take. For some, home is a physical place. For others, it’s summed up in a person. For the lucky, home is where they’re most at ease. For the displaced and dispossessed, home is inaccessible miles away.
The comforts of home don’t have to be luxurious. Thomas Holton’s “Bath Time” (from his series “The Lams of Ludlow Street”) shows the cramped apartment of a family in New York’s Chinatown. The bathtub, filled with three splashing kids, is right next to the kitchen sink, where the watchful mother washes dishes. The scene combines offhand intimacy with chore-time routine.
Home can come with an uncomfortable twist, though. Yousef Linjawi’s “Palestinian Refugee Family I” makes it clear that, while the somber mother and two children depicted have shelter, they’ve lost their sense of belonging. Steve Davis’s untitled wide shot of eight men in jackets and ties seated at a long table offers a wrinkle of another kind. It looks like an offbeat piece of corporate advertising. The men, however, are inmates at the Washington State Correctional Center in Shelton.
Workplaces as homes-away-from-home are a recurring theme. Recreational spots — a 1940s nightclub, a hobby shop — have homelike functions too.
The most striking shot is Zack Bent’s “Father, Sons” which, with no reference to any built environment, distills family structure to its essence. A young boy with a ritual marking on his forehead has a tangle of hands securing him in place. Blood ties, Bent seems to say, are the primal root of home.
Noon-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-6 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, through Dec. 10. Photographic Center Northwest, 900 12th Ave., Seattle; free (206-720-7222 or www.pcnw.org).
Similar in theme to “Notions of Home,” ArtXchange Gallery’s “Bloodlines” encompasses sculpture, glass works, paintings and more. The two most fascinating artists in the show – MalPina Chan and Samina Islam – mix genres in ways that make you reconsider the very nature of photography and printmaking.
Dutch-Pakistani artist Islam’s “Ancestral Clues” is a wall-spanning suite of 13 altered photographs connected by blood-red threads — the “bloodlines,” presumably, of the show’s title. The photographs are mostly black-and-white family snapshots transformed into inkjet prints on canvas that the artist ornaments with colorful needlework, sequins and glass beads.
A honeymooning bride’s face becomes a sunflower or a cascading bouquet of roses. A modern Dutch rowhouse is partly highlighted in green, yellow and orange needlepoint, with emphatic but wobbling red threads encircling a family gathering in its front garden. The needlework repeatedly animates the vivid memories latent in monochrome photographs.
Chan mixes media even more variously than Islam. In “Calling the Ghosts,” she places a photographic image of a young girl inside a fused-glass shrine to an unattainable past. In “Red Envelope,” she infuses dye on aluminum in a printlike manner to overlay a young child’s face with passport stamps and visa information. Maps, text and snapshots all turn up in her work.
Steve Jensen’s found-object sculptures (reflecting his Norwegian heritage) and Nigerian-American artist Jite Agbro’s mixed-media prints on wax paper (inspired by traditional Nigerian clothing) also have a strong allure. Still, Chan and Islam’s hybrid extensions of photographic and printmaking possibilities are the knockouts.
11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through Nov. 25. ArtXchange Gallery, 512 First Ave. S., Seattle; free (206-839-0377 or www.artxchange.org).