Fine art prints can be both complex and mysterious. The process is difficult and time consuming with much thought given to color and design. But, the most important part of process is the artist. It is their touch that turns the print into something sublime as they follow through while maintaining some freshness to the work.
It is the artist’s hand that draws the image, sometimes done in reverse that could distort it beyond recognition. Not an easy task for any artist. Brass Tax, the latest show at the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson, takes the art of the print to a new level. The process may be technical, but the result can be beautiful.
“I’d like people to take away the sense that screen printing can be an art,” said Kim Reid Kuhn, gallery owner and artist. “We are so saturated with (printing) every day. I felt it was important to show it in a broader sense. It’s more than only shirt printing. That’s where the printing on alternative media came into play.”
In Brass Tacks, the prints are referred to as one-offs. That means that each print is unique and has no edition associated with it. Each one is like having a one of a kind art piece. And the materials used in this show, wood, plexiglass, foam board, and steel, are completely out of the ordinary; not one print is done on paper.
Pat Oakes, who has been screen-printing in commercial print shops for 15 years, including several at Tank Merch, has done some prints and collaborations with other artists. He was asked by Reid to curate this show.
“Screen printing is a tactile process that can create work that can be very simple or very complex,” Oakes said. “Bold colors and imagery and exacting lines and sloppy textures, which are all achieved through the same stenciling process. Screen printing is one of the oldest printing processes still used today.”
There are a few pieces that stand out as you enter. You first see Eric Nyffeler’s, “Self Portrait,” an amazing almost 3-D print done on plexiglass. It has multiple layers that allow the viewer to see past the face. The first sheet has Nyffeler’s face, then the muscles; the next layer is the skull and waiting behind that are some dusty cobwebs. This is one of the most imaginative pieces in the show.
“Tanks for Nothing” by Jeremy Caliglia is a political print done on metal. The tank’s gun is pointing at a lone red figure waving to the tank, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Tiananmen Square protester. The metal is distressed and shows age that allows it to have a slightly sinister quality to it.
“For Decoration Only” is a print done on a reclaimed shipping pallet with bright orange and green vintage cameras screen=printed on it. Micah Renner and Jacqueline McLane collaborated on this piece with gives a nod to Warhol.
“Collaboration is the strength of the show,” Reid said. “I collaborated with Pat [Oakes], Pat collaborated with Adam [Findley], several of the artists collaborated on their pieces. Visually, all of the work is strong. Whether it’s the bold imagery or color, or the way the show is installed, it captures the punk ethos of Sweatshop.”
With Joshua Norton’s “Sasaquatch” you have a humorous take on taxidermy. Screen- printed on MDF, the Sasaquatch has been found and head mounted. It is ready to be hung above a fireplace with its bright blue eyes staring blankly at you.
Oakes also created a few pieces for the show. One of the best is “La Cigarra” which is a screen print done on birch of a cicada. The wings look so delicate and the print is so detailed, you really have to look at it closely to see that it is a print and not a watercolor painting. There is such an airy quality to it that it makes for a very ethereal piece.
“I think the show illustrates the range of work that can be achieved with the screen printing process,” Oakes said. “The styles of prints are wildly different from graphic to abstract, yet using the same print method. The versatility in the show is its biggest strength.”
Art is always expanding and evolving and print seems to be enjoying a credible revival. Artists from all mediums seem to be drawn to this process because of the diversity that prints offer. Brass Tax is a show that features much diversity, and with an open mind you can see some of the edgiest art currently on display.
Brass Tax Screen Print Show continues through February 28, 2014, Sweatshop Gallery, 2727 North 62nd Street, (402)707-3724 www.facebook.com/sweatshopgalleryomaha