Friday, March 27, 2009

Intaglio a Go-Go: Etching Moves Forward

Libraries are one of my favorite places to hang out. I love being around books and people who love being around books. The library is a place of words. However, it is easy to forget that it is also a place of images. Printed images and picture are close kin to printed words. For this reason, libraries have extraordinary potential as places to exhibit art, in particular art related to words.

There is no place better to feel the aura of books, reading, and deep thoughts than at a big city library. The exhibit "Intaglio a Go-Go: Etching Moves Forward" at the Free Library of Philadelphia finds its home in this environment. The library is at 1901 Vine Street right off of the Ben Franklin Park Way. This is an exhibit of prints by Philadelphia area artists working with the intaglio process. Intaglio includes etching, engraving, dry point, aquatint and mezzotint. Artists exhibiting include: Cindy Back, Amze Emmons, David Fertig, Donald Forsythe, Carrie Scanga, Bill Scott, Evan Summer, Rochelle Toner, Shelly Thorstensen, and yours truely.

Another idiosyncratic aspect of library exhibits involves the display in cases rather than on austere white walls. Below are a few images of artwork in display cases. The following are works by artists I ran into at the opening.

Above are prints by Evan Summer who has been a long time Professor at Kutztown University. Evan often makes images of complex, geometrically inspired landscapes. I was surprised to see his prints on a gray paper. This particular gray reminded me of zinc plates that etchings are often made from. It is as if he is making prints of the print matrix.

Rochelle Toner exhibited a number of prints (seen above) that demonstrates her working process. She is especially adept at making a copper plate print dark through aquatint and then scraping and burnishing areas of the plate to bring out a range of values.

Amze Emmons work (seen above) draws from contemporary industrially produced objects. These are objects that we often take for granted such as containers for gasoline or cement dividers. Through his fluid use of line and and flat minimal coloring he highlights the beautiful geometry of these items.

P.S. for more information visit

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The City of Angels:

It is easy to generalize about the outsized dreams and excesses of the people who built Los Angeles and those who make it run. However, it is impossible to summarize a city of over ten million people.

Last week, I visited Los Angeles for the first time. I stayed in the city for most of five days, rented a car, and slept on two different couches. For the first two days, I was mostly downtown at the convention center for the College Art Association conference. I was surprised to find that the hustle and bustle of down town L.A. seemed similar to eastern cities. There were a lot more shops and eateries than I expected. I arrived on a Thursday and by Saturday I was exploring the art galleries in China Town with some friends. What I expected to find was large spaces and big egos but what I found was quite the opposite.

Most of the gallery owners seemed eager to talk about the work. Some of the people I met working in the galleries that day were among the friendliest I had ever met. I don't often feel like I get this kind of treatment in other cities I have visited. I think this kind of good behavior goes along way in convincing the larger public that art is not just for a select group of people but for anyone who has a mind and an eye to be curious. The art that I saw was also surprising to me; I saw a lot of humanism. Below are some pictures, captions, and highlights from my journey.

Above is work by Elizabeth Higgins O'Connor at David Salow Gallery.
The gallery was inhabited by wonderful sculptures of animal like creatures created out of stuffed animals and other fabrics. My friends and I marveled over the varied poses and the pathos that these creatures presented. One can see more of Elizabeth's work at

Painting by Joan Snyder

Another exhibit which stood out was Joan Snyder's exhibit at Solway Jones Gallery. Online images and reproductions do not do her work justice. Her work is among the best painterly abstractions I have seen lately. Ms. Snyder's vocabulary of mark and form is diverse. She often builds up paint in a sculptural way. Included in the paint are bits of different materials such as fabrics and dried debris from plants. These artifacts are barely noticeable in reproduction. The small bits that I found in her paintings were like little surprises and reminded me of the insects and little details, found only through close inspection, in dutch still life painting from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For more images visit:

Seen above is the L.A. County Museum of Art which underwent a grand expansion making it a first rate museum to visit. The new edition emphasizes modern and contemporary work.

One of the great advantages of being an artist is that you get to make friends with other artists and often see their work in their own space. While in L.A., I stayed with Dawson Weber who is a recent M.F.A graduate of Art Center. Dawson makes painterly abstractions which he contrasts with different systems and systematic thinking. Above is a picture of Dawson in front of his L.A. apartment. Below is an image of his works on torn Pantone colors. The Pantone color matching system is used by designers to determine how printing results will match design work.

Above is one of Dawson's paintings. To learn more about Dawson's work visit his site:

There never has to be a dull moment in L.A., but if one needs to slow down one can relax by the pool and there are a lot of pools in L.A. I was sad to leave the warm weather and return to a snow storm in Philadelphia. However, the snow does have its own charm.