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Prism Chamber (From the "Prism System" Series)
Mixed Media on Paper
© 1999 Kim Laurel

Chicago Printmakers Collaborative
Small Print Exhibition
and Holiday Gift Bazaar

December 4, 1999 - February 6, 2000
Thursdays: 1-5 pm;
Saturdays: 1-5 pm;
and by appointment.

Workshop Print Gallery
4642 North Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60625
Telephone: 773/ 293-2070

Usually, when one visits a treasure trove, others are the last to know. But the Small Print Exhibition and Holiday Gift Bazaar presented by the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative at their Workshop Print Gallery is too good to keep quiet. From December 4th through February 6th, on Thursdays and Saturdays from noon to five, this exhibition and sale by one of Chicago's most productive and creative arts organizations offers a wide range of etchings, aquatints, woodcuts, linoleum prints, and mixed media. The prices are modest; most of the works, representing traditional and experimental techniques by over thirty artists, are priced under $100.00. And the variety is benumbing.

The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative has generated fine work for over ten years and its new quarters at 4642 North Western Avenue promise to expand that achievement. The Collaborative's Small Print exhibition is an even greater pleasure, for it offers art lovers and collectors an opportunity to view not only the Print Gallery, but also much of the workshop and equipment, as well as the chance to speak with some of the artists. The exhibitors include: Molly Briggs, Dan Cochrane, Stephen Egert, Deborah Maris Lader, Kim Laurel, Nichole Maury, Mary O'Shaughnessy, Joel Rendon, Jenny Schmid, Jeff Sippel, Michael Thompson, and many more -- impressive artists, more than one can fully list.

Writing Orthosis/Needle & Thread
(Detail: 1.75"x2.5") (From the "Tools" Series)
Gumprint on Board, Graphite on Gessoed Walnut
Deborah Maris Lader
© 1999 Photography: James Prinz

Kim Laurel's work is familiar to Chicago print collectors and her mixed media works on paper are well represented in this showing. Prism Chamber (1999), from her "Prism System Series," is representative of her recent work. A first impression is one of contemporary, illuminated manuscripts. The gilding and subtlety of color must be seen live: reproduction cannot do it justice. These are small, affordable paper jewels. Laurel's prints in this exhibit harmonize and counterpoint natural and abstracted geometries. In Prism Chamber, the Fibonacci spiral inherent in a Nautilus shell forms a focus, while a vegetive tendril at left echoes that animal symmetry. The diamond, regular octahedrons, and faceted geometric stylizations play in contrast against the soft curves. Throughout the image area, spontaneous, free lines form a discrete and unifying netting. Laurel's current printwork brings to mind a Charles Demuth illuminating miniature jewelry onto paper. Laurel's prints were selected this past September for Chicago's "Around The Coyote" Curator's Choice Group Show. This artist, and Deborah Maris Lader, are also exhibiting work in "Small Packages II," which runs until December 24th, 1999 at Wood Street Gallery, 1239 North Wood Street, Chicago (Tel: 773/ 227-3306).

This current showing offers a number of Deborah Maris Lader's mixed media prints. Writing Orthosis/Needle & Thread (1999), from her "Tools" series is an example of present work. This is a gumprint on board, with graphite on gessoed walnut superimposed. The detail shown measures 1.75"x2.5" and offers conceptual wit: a hand, itself rendered in graphite, draws a line which extends as a thread for the adjacent image of a threaded needle. It is the sort of whimsical, impossible equivalency that M. C. Escher loved to contemplate. Deborah Maris Lader is Director of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative and is represented by Belloc Lowndes Fine Art, 300 West Superior, Suite 203, Chicago (Tel: 312/ 573-1159). The artist is also profiled in The Chicago Art Scene (Crow Woods Pub: 1998). Lader has won the 1999 Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Columbia College/ Arts Management Department, Chicago.

In a more traditional approach are the etchings of Elisabetta Franchini, many of which focus on expertly rendered scenes of Italian countryside, vistas of hillside towns, idyllic roads, palazzos. Her work is represented by greytone prints as well as sepias. Villa Campestri is a fine rendering of a rural villa, while San Gimignano depicts from on high a picturesque view of a narrow town streetway. Albero di Limone is a well-defined and skillfully composed still life of a potted lemon tree on a provincial veranda. It offers a wealth of visual texture and detail in an airy, clearly 'readable' art print. Franchini's work evokes fine predecessors such as Joseph Pennell, Frank Benson, Charles Meryon.

Villa Cetinale
Pastel, 40"x60"
© 1998 Elisabetta Franchini

Contrasting prints from Jim Lloyd and Jenny Schmid exemplify the striking range of work in the Millennium Small Print Exhibition and Sale. Of Lloyd's work, the etching/aquatint A Pile of Broken Bones and Rancid Flesh particularly lingers in mind: it represents a defleshed, skeletal body, head to the ground and rump thrust skywards. One thinks of German Expressionist Otto Dix's earlier war prints such as Dance of Death (1917), or of Kathe Kollwitz's Woman and Death. Lloyd has produced a dramatically rendered, somber piece, as fascinating as it is macabre. His etching, The Hero Wandered Above, Across the Highway of Death is equally engaging. Jenny Schmid's Miss Monotype (PC Monotype), in contrast, is wry, colorful, almost a polished hommage to Jean Charlot, or the Mexican artists, Jose Guadalupe Posada or David Alfaro Siqueiros. The piece, commissioned for the Collaborative, is both festive and smart. Schmid has recently left for Detroit, but one hopes her work will continue to be represented in Chicago.

And Vinifera, a piece in watercolor and ink, by Diana Tutton, is a visual delight. In its clean,animated stylization, delicate and intricate, it seems akin to Chicago Imagism, albeit more refined and studied. Another, smaller Tutton watercolor etching, Germicide, confirms a lighter side to her printmaking. Tutton is a printmaker of talent and imagination, and one looks forward to seeing future work. In so wide a selection, particular names stay with one out of sheer personal delight: the etching Black Jack Lady, one of several, very satisfying works by Bert Menco; Jill Kramer's strong and expressionistic linocut, Franklin Castle; and especially several masterful prints by Joel Rendon. In 1994, Rendon was an Artist-in-Residence at the Art Institute of Chicago, and since then has returned to Mexico. The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative maintains high technical standards and gathers in noteworthy artists, but it also offers worksessions for the experienced, and courses for the novice.

Melancolia urbana
Linocut: 12.7 cms
© 1994 Joel Rendon

The Millennium Small Print Exhibition and Holiday Gift Bazaar, now at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, 4642 North Western Avenue, Chicago, is an excellent opportunity to experience quality in quantity; a showing and sale, not only of fine art prints, but cards, handmade books and similar print items. The showing also includes a raffle of prints by CPC artists and Chicago artist/printmaker, Tony Fitzpatrick. In this exhibition and sale, Fitzpatrick's "Pinky" will be offered. "Pinky" is a limited edition, six-color lithograph and was pulled by master printer Jeff Sippel from the Tamarind Institute of Lithography.

The Millennium Small Print Exhibition and Holiday Gift Bazaar continues, Thursdays and Saturdays, 1:00 to 5:00 PM, and by appointment, until February 6th, 2000. Further information may be obtained by phone: 773/ 293-2070 or email: ink1101@aol.com

--G. Jurek Polanski

Jurek Polanski has previously written and art edited for Strong Coffee in Chicago. He's also well known and respected among the Chicago museums and galleries. Jurek is currently a Visual Arts Correspondent for ArtScope.net.

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