The art of printmaking is often misconceived. Not to be confused with commercial printing of the brochures-in-multiples variety, fine art printmaking is an artform studied in art schools all over the world - literally, for centuries. It is an aesthetic entity all its own.
Work by Garo Antreasian is part of the printmaking exhibit at Herron.
Renaissance artists such as Albrecht Durer became famous for it. In our current age, where the gods of commercialism are worshiped rather than the gods of meaning, the reputation of fine art printmaking has suffered among the general populace. When an artist"s work is reproduced in the thousands, with maximum sales in mind, the printmaking technique is no longer part of the artist"s aesthetic; it is a means to a commercial end. Thankfully, there are still fine artists who work with the printmaking media in the same way other artists employ the brush or chisel. Herron School of Art at IUPUI is recognized as having one of the top three undergraduate printmaking departments. Over the past 55 years of its existence, many students and professors have gone on to prestigious careers. Among these, Vija Celmins, whose work was exhibited recently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (with numerous national and international showings in the years previous), is a 1962 Herron graduate. The Latvian-American artist, who has lived in this country since middle childhood, will deliver the keynote address for the Efroymson Visiting Artist Lecture Series at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 (rescheduled from Feb. 4) at the Herron Auditorium. Several of Celmins" prints are on view at Herron Gallery in the exhibition Making an Impression: Printmaking at Herron School of Art. His prints are alongside the work of more than 20 other Herron-related artists, including such notables as Garo Antreasian, alumnus and former instructor; Robert Eagerton, professor of painting; Peg Fierke, professor of printmaking; David Morrison, associate professor of printmaking; Jan Tenenbaum, associate professor of printmaking; and Ashley Nason, Herron instructor. Other Herron alumni exhibitors include Amanda Block, Jack Cowin, William Crutchfield, Robert Cutter, Keith Dull, Ed Funk, Ken Kerslake, Misch Kohn, Tim North, Ed Powell, Francisco Souto, Larry Spaid, William Vlantis and Kenneth Tyler, who is known for having established one of the best known fine art printmaking presses in the world. The exhibit offers a fine cross section of Herron talent, showcasing its famed printmakers alongside its current - and highly regarded - professors and instructors. The work illustrates the broad scope of printmaking, from Garo Antreasian"s large-scale abstractions that one could easily confuse for painting to Peg Fierke"s darkly precise, figurative and diminutive works. Fierke and Herron colleague and co-exhibitor Jan Tenenbaum"s works were exhibited in the Indianapolis Museum of Art"s recent Prints of the North exhibit. Viewing this generous exhibit, one gets a sense of the talent, craftsmanship and innovation inherent in the fine art printmaking tradition at Herron. Celmins" work, though, is most sublime of all. Ethereal and spiritual, Celmins" impossibly precise woodcut "Ocean Surface" is itself a work of agility and genius. Who would know that this is not a photograph, but instead, the result of the painstaking gouging of wood to reveal an expanse of ocean waves so real as to mimic the thing itself? Equally compelling, Celmins" spider web and night sky images speak to a deeply (or highly) spiritual place. Celmins" symbols are universal ones: The web of life is revealed in the microcosm of a spider web just as it is displayed in the constellations of the heavens. Making an Impression: Printmaking at Herron School of Art is on view through Feb. 15 at Herron Gallery, 1701 N. Pennsylvania St. Both the exhibit and the Vija Celmins lecture on Feb. 11 are free and open to the public. For more information, call 920-2421.