Print/ Collect isn't exactly a book, nor is it quite the art show of the same name that is on view at Current Gallery through Aug. 25. It is what happens when the prints of a group of serious local artists are put together in a way to try to make it affordable to collectors in the same economic status as the creators. The show, the collection of prints from eight artists (which goes for $200), and the catalog (also featuring text that ranges from essay to interview) together create an impressive constellation of work whose variety is stunning. Work ranges from Colin Benjamin's cryptic drip-paint declarations (such as "Your Method Equals Wipe Out") to John Bohl's bright, air-brushed Pop to James Bouché's angular austerity.
At the far end of Bouché's cool formalism (which is also spectacularly on view in a solo show at Springsteen Gallery), Molly Colleen O'Connell, a comic artist, moves between the antic poles of brightly colored fliers, densely detailed black-and-white images reminiscent of Max Ernst's collage novels, and campy photo scenes.
The catalog's text is nearly as fascinating as the images; its interviews read like conversations rather than formal Q&As. When O'Connell says "I relate more to the raw energy being created then [in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s] than the slickness of contemporary output," it could be an epigraph for the entire project of Print/Collect. Whereas O'Connell defines herself as a "storyteller," Chris Day, whose work also suggests the rough-edged late '70s, says, "Sometimes I reduce all the disciplines I work in to their most fundamental points and call myself an imagemaker. . . . At the end of the day it all boils down to imagery." The tension between these two poles, the storyteller and the imagemaker, is beautifully and brilliantly captured in Print/Collect.
Rob Brulinski's book of photographs, Baltimore City, casts the photographer clearly as an imagemaker, but it is still impossible for us not to use the 53 images in his book to tell the story-a story-about the warehouse/art school/punk show demimonde of the city. Some of the images are tragic-an RIP poster on a telephone pole with teddy bears taped to it-while others are gross-a heavyset dude whose scrotum hangs out of women's underwear as he drunkenly wavers between a microphone and a 40 of Boh. Unlike in the photographs of Aubrey Bodine (recently published in Bodine's Industry: The Dignity of Work), we find no images of people laboring-except for the stripper letting two boys mock-lick her breasts-but we do find bloody faces, sleeping kids, and leather jackets à la the lumpenproleterait of Larry Clark. But there is still a beauty to the images and the lives portrayed in them (it is available at Atomic books).
Taken together, Print/Collect and Brulinski's Baltimore City show a vibrancy of book matter that cannot be captured in words alone.