CHANGING MEDIA

by Judith Hoffberg

(Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena) Do not always judge an exhibition by its title--it may fool you. If your first impression of "Changing Media: Books and Prints" is, logically, to see cutting edge prints and state-of- the-art books, be sure to read the curators' statement posted on the wall. What this is really all about is seriality, the strategy of creating works of art in series. Approach it with that in mind and the show falls into place.

In dealing with the multiples known as prints and books, usually published in editions, you usually understand this as copies from the original printing surface which serves as a matrix, and all the copies are typically identical. In the vernacular, you could call it theme and variations. But lately it has become more interesting to artists to create series that are less than identical. The artist uses a matrix, of course, but the progression of images or objects results from returning to that matrix and modifying it again and again.

The artworks are as varied as one can imagine. The curators, artists themselves, include themselves in this exhibition, since they are fine exponents of seriality in all its ramifications. John O'Brien is a highly creative printmaker, and in the series here, he uses art historical references to William Blake in a series of eight images in intaglio over chine collé. Ruth Weisberg, renowned for her figurative work, has recently investigated monotype which animates a figure immersed in water in a series of six images.

Another artist whose renown in letterpress has stimulated a generation of younger artists in the book world is Susan E. King, whose photographs of both Salem and New York City were catalysts for, at first, one-of-a-kind bookworks, which has led to a small edition in letterpress. The images of King's visit to Salem, Massachusetts lead to an amazing accordion- book-work with text printed on the frame of each photograph and laser prints from her own photographs. The technique of the unfolding of strong images over time lend itself perfectly to the book.

Laura Stickney and Vilma Mendillo use old photographs and superb craftsmanship to create book- works which leave the viewer breathless with wonder. Stickney's grandfather had an automobile called a Velie, which was a revered possession. From a photo postcard he had left, she created a masterpiece, Velie Book, by making transparencies from the photo, creating a pouch full of those images seemingly as "glass negatives" each in its own pocket, the case embroidered with the name of the automobile, and stitched in rainbow threads as a very precious treasure of a past where what we take for granted today was cherished with passion and awe 80 years ago. Larger than life, the memory is recaptured by a granddaughter- artist and her partner into a magnificent work of art.

Cutting edge electronics are used by Dennis Olsen of San Antonio, Texas who creates his own geometries on the computer from found texts and recycled fragments of former work which evolve into exciting and provocative works of dynamic energy.

Steven Murakishi, formerly of Southern California but now of the Motor City in Michigan, has created a windshield which has decals generated on the computer and then screen-printed--tongue-in-cheek commentary on our fetish with the automobile not only in Detroit but also in Los Angeles!

marvin harden's quiet, moving etchings of Natural Selections have a Zen-like quality of meditative imagery, a single image on a buff color paper, which obviously requires close scrutiny and quiet viewing, allowing the viewer to ponder the essence of life and living things.

For the record, 33 1/3: Off the Record by Harry Reese is a multifaceted work of art remembering "old technology" with "new experimentation". Wrapping, painting and printing vinyl records, Reese experiments with rubbings, drawings, and monotypes with texts in a portfolio. The mystery of the ghost images are as Zen-like as harden's single images.

Several other artists who also are experimental and transformative round out this group show, which requires the viewer to spend a great deal of time intimately with each work.

The "old technology" becomes new again!

 

Stephen Murakishi, "Smart Car,"
screenprint decals on Chevy S-10 pick-up
windshield, 28 3/4 x 57 3/4", 1997

 



marvin harden

 



Harry Reese, from "33 1/2: Off the Record,"
a book series, oil on paper, 12 x 12", 1995.

 



Laura Stickney & VIlma Mendillo,
"Study for Aviation Murals," ink on
paper, 29 x 22 3/4", ca. 1935-36.

 

 



Vida Hackman, "Squire Raven's Boat,"
photo-collaged construction,
68 x 48 x 36", 1994.