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September 12 - November 23, 2005 at Mixografia Gallery, Downtown

by Andy Brumer

Mixografia prints produced at the unique Mixografia Workshop present a kind of trompe l’oeil, but taken up a notch. That is, they emboss objects into handmade paper from the real world, such as rope, wood, plastic, metal, tile, etc., with such three-dimensional veracity that easily pass both for the real thing, as well as one-of-a-kind collages, when, of course, they are multiple editions. Indeed, the works do begin as artists’ original collages, which are then cast into copper printing plates.

Luis Remba, the founder and grand patron of the Workshop, originally developed this printing process in the early 1970’s to challenge the Mexican modernist Rufino Tamayo to try his hand at prints. Remba recalls Tamayo saying that if he could create prints with bulto (roughly translated as “textured mass”) he would give the process a try. Tamayo succeeded beautifully, and Remba went on to produce Mixografia prints for a Who’s-Who list of modern and contemporary art stars, including Henry Moore, Helen Frankenthaler, Joe Goode, Lynda Benglis, Robert Graham, and numerous others.

Now Italian postmodernist Mimmo Paladino has whipped up a series of elegant Mixografias which, like Tamayo’s, bubble with earthy sensuality and spiritual poetry. Paladino’s protean creativity has expressed itself in a wide range of media, including sculpture in many materials, painting, printmaking, drawing and assemblage. His new Mixografia prints’ supple plasticity and capacity to meld disparate materials into a unified field obviously complement Paladino’s skills, interests and talents. As this show (which will be simultaneously exhibited in Rome, Italy at the Istituto Italo-Latina Americano) clearly demonstrates, Paladino literally stamps many of his signature icons into these prints.

For example, several display his familiar sketches of silhouetted heads, disembodied hands and body limbs, obsessively scribbled numbers, and an array of historical symbols and signs that point to classical antiquity. Mix in cubist inspired geometric drawings and the assemblagist’s scraps of common “junk,” and what one sees in these works is a kind of postmodernist geology, with layers of art-history fully exposed like stratified cultural sediment.

"California Suite No. 3,” 2004,
Mixografia® print on handmade
paper, edition of 50, 31 x 23 x 1”.

"California Suite No. 1,” 2004,
Mixografia® print on handmade paper,
cast resin, edition of 50, 31 x 23 x 1”.

"California Suite No. 10,” 2004,
Mixografia® print on handmade paper,
chine colle, edition of 50, 31 x 23 x 1”.

"California Suite No. 11,” 2004,
Mixografia® print on handmade paper,
chine colle, edition of 50, 31 x 23 x 1”.

Paladino calls this collection of work “California Suite,” then numbers, rather than names each print. In one (“No. 3”), a cadaverous head inked in an earthy, clay-like brown becomes a vessel for a large number 2 drawn with graffiti-like innocence. However, the randomness of this union gives way to quirky reason, because the shape of the number visibly echoes or rhymes with the skull’s curved perimeter. More painted 2’s and a few expressionist brush strokes of bold color rotate around this cranium like the hands of a mystical clock, while globular drips of ink, frozen deep within the print’s embossed paper, engage in an ironic nod to Modernism’s concern with the illusion of dynamic motion.

In “No. 10,” Paul Klee-like drawings of cheveroned twigs etched into a pink color field act as spiritual arrows pointing in erratic directions. This frames another head, which this time houses a hand with fingers stretched wide open. These images float above an image of an embossed chunk of charred wood, as if some archetypal soul were reaching down from the transforming caldron of a dream into a primordial forest.

This show takes its viewers places, and though it’s not clear exactly where, the confidence and control these Mixografia prints exude feel like safe invitations to join them along their allegorical journeys.