Visual Art

Julianna Thibodeaux

Tandem Press: Contemporary Prints

Ruschman Art Gallery

Through April 1

'White Light' by Judy Pfaff, part of 'Tandem Press: Contemporary prints' at Ruschman Art Gallery

Universities often make a name for themselves by establishing community-based ventures, programs that connect their intellectual and/or creative talent with those on the outside. Such is the case, if only within an artistic sphere of influence, of Tandem Press, a self-supporting printmaking studio affiliated with the Department of Art in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Here in Indianapolis, we have the unique opportunity to see the fruits of this long-standing, highly-regarded venture with the exhibition Tandem Press: Contemporary Prints at Ruschman Art Gallery.

Ruschman has long maintained an affiliation with Tandem, representing well-known printmaker Judy Pfaff among others who have had their works printed there. Ruschman's current show highlights recent work by Pfaff alongside a selection of other inspired works by artists from around the country, including David Lynch (yes, that's the David Lynch), Jim Dine, Sam Gilliam, Robert Cottingham, Suzanne Caporael, Gronk, Squeak Carnwath and Benjamin Edwards. Gallery owner Mark Ruschman, who traveled to Wisconsin to handpick the show with gallery colleague Telene Edington, said the exhibition was an "opportunity to show a wide variety of imagery and techniques."

Exhibitions like this one, tightly curated and organized around a central theme or approach, represent the best of what the group show format can offer: that is, a peak into the breadth of a particular idea or medium. In this case, output from Tandem Press represents the growth of printmaking as an experimental artform by artists who challenge themselves and, by extension, their audiences.

David Lynch, a painter who is also internationally known for his film work, certainly fits the bill. Lynch created his first prints at Tandem; those on view at Ruschman affirm Lynch's quirky, creepy leanings - animal paw imprints and the impression of a jaw penetrate the thick paper, rendered in dark ink on a tight grid of black and white. Judy Pfaff, one of Tandem Press' best-known and prolific artists (she works primarily in print media) offers new but familiarly-themed works inspired by nature: "Queen Anne's Lace" (intaglio, relief) depicts the delicate needles of the plant and its numerous, spidery emanations, but there's more to it than a faithful homage to the plant's intricacies. Punctuating the work are carefully placed holes punched into the paper, revealing orbits of orange circles - not necessarily conforming to the impetus of the plants - and suggesting a reach into otherness that sets the work apart.

Certainly, when it comes to printmaking, it's in the details, and often such details can only be achieved in this medium, where the surprise is generated as much by the method as by the intended image. In the case of this exhibition, the surprises are all delightful.

Tandem Press: Contemporary Prints is on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., through April 1: 317-634-3114 or