Pulled: Evidence of a Print Community
through May 25 at Urbanite@Case[Werks]
More at weekly.citypaper.com
Local printmakers are a tight-knit bunch. Mary Mashburn, who runs Typecast Press and teaches letterpress printing at the Maryland Institute College of Art, recently ran a six-degrees-of separation exercise exploring that idea. She wrote a statement for Pulled: Evidence of a Print Community, the current exhibition at the Urbanite@Case[Werks] Showroom and Gallery, drawing connections between herself and other printmakers involved in the exhibition. Some had once lent her paper or moved heavy print equipment with her; others she’d met at weddings or through the effort to save the venerable Globe Poster’s extensive collection when the company closed its doors in 2010 (“Pressed for Time,” Feature, Jan. 26, 2011). She was connected to all of them in one way or another, leading her to conclude: “That, I think, is evidence of a print community.”
The notion of a local printmaking network is what led curator Marian April Glebes to create the exhibition, one of many print events inspired by the recent Contemporary Print Fair at the Baltimore Museum of Art (“Artistic Type,” Art, April 25). “I’m not an expert in print at all,” Glebes says. “I know very little about it. So instead of me trying to teach myself about print . . . I wanted to go to people who think about print all the time.” Glebes asked six local print studios, presses, and galleries—including Mashburn’s—to “sub-curate,” contributing works they’d created, that inspired them in some way, or that were by artists they represent.
Each of the entities she chose has a very different focus. Gilah Press + Design is a largely commercial enterprise, dedicated to designing and creating letterpress wedding invitations, greeting cards, and other boutique items. Goya Contemporary/Goya-Girl Press produces mostly fine art, often working with established artists for years at a time. Open Space, more widely known as a gallery, operates on a DIY level, with in-house equipment available to artists who help operate the space or are otherwise involved. (Open Space recently held its own Publications and Multiples Fair to coincide with the Print Fair.) Litho Shop uses a variety of printing techniques to produce original prints and multiples for clients. Baltimore Print Studios rents out its presses and conducts workshops for the public. And Typecast creates work on commission but Mashburn now also helps administer the Globe Poster collection, which belongs to MICA. “There are all these different genres and different ways of working,” Glebes says. “So it actually is very rare to have them all under one roof.”
Not surprisingly, the range of works in the exhibition is vast. A weathered classic Globe poster advertising bill doggett, hammond organ stylist and his orchestra hangs alongside a poster for last year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival created by Typecast with the Globe collection, in the same colorful, splashy style. Nearby, a display case includes coasters decorated with go-go dancers and motorcycle riders, both modern Typecast creations made with old Globe letterpress cuts. But not all the prints have this graphic look. Juan Logan’s beautiful “Ghosts” series, six black-and-white etchings printed by Litho Shop, have a luminous, mysterious depth reminiscent of organic forms submerged in fluid. And the voluptuous nudes in Joyce J. Scott’s monotype “Untitled,” from Goya, literally rise off the surface of the textured black paper. (It’s a piece one wants to touch, but fortunately for the artist, it is behind glass.) Steps away, a charming letterpress invitation booklet in faded blues and reds (by Gilah Press) provides the logistics for a fondue party.
The show even includes a piece that is not a print at all: Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez’s “Double Gulps.” The installation recreates the titular 7-Eleven drink 20 times in concrete, red and green straws emerging from the tops. This is one of the few pieces that Glebes chose herself, though Alvarez’s name was submitted by Open Space. The piece is also the only one in the show that blatantly references the idea of multiples, a key feature of printmaking. “One of the reasons I am so interested in ‘Double Gulps’ is first of all the ridiculous labor,” Glebes says. “I feel like that’s sometimes how people think of print. Like, why would you take all this time to do this when you could just click and print it on the computer?”
The answer is in the exhibition itself, where many of the pieces have what Glebes calls “the magic of the handmade.” A letterpress piece created for the show is a case in point. In grays, light greens, orange-y reds, and a variety of fonts, it reads "A place for everything and everything in its place," with a tiny disclaimer at the bottom: "Wishful thinking from Baltimore Print Studios." It’s the sort of homey saying that might have been cross-stitched by one’s grandmother, and the piece—with its delicate indentations where the letterpress cuts have made their mark—retains that human touch.
Other prints in the show are also the result of classic printmaking processes, but initially do not appear to be. Christian Marclay’s lithographs (submitted by Goya), for example, are photographs. Each depicts an empty room: in one case a music classroom and in the other a performance room littered with folding chairs and music stands. “So many people said, ‘It’s a photograph, it’s not a print,’” Glebes says. “And I would say, ‘Well, isn’t a photograph a print? Let’s talk about that.’. . . I’ve had a lot of conversations that I didn’t know I was going to have. That’s why I curate, for the connectivity.”