Visual Art

Julianna Thibodeaux

Contemporary Printmaking 2006

Christel DeHaan Gallery

Through Feb. 10

Fine art printmaking has a magic all its own. Distinct from commercial printing, it's an artform - as much about the process as the final product. The University of Indianapolis' exhibition Contemporary Printmaking 2006 celebrates this work in the specific and growing discipline of non-toxic printmaking. Donna Lee Adams, who teaches non-toxic printing techniques at the University of Indianapolis in one of a few but growing number of such studios in the country, spearheaded the invitational, which includes a nicely-sized group of artists from near and far. The exhibit includes a broad spectrum of expressions, from near-photographic precision to ethereal abstraction in works that expose neither artist nor the environment to toxic chemicals (such as nitric acid).

The Christel DeHaan Gallery, it should first be said, is a straightforward, professional-looking space; the ceiling is high and the space is one large room with wood floors and precise lighting. This puts the artwork in the best possible circumstances - and this exhibition rises to the occasion. Elizabeth Dove's haunting prints explore, as she writes, the "passage of time, subjective scientific methods and how one's body can register and communicate history and memories" - an evocative statement that doesn't obviously connect to the art, but gives it a framework on a deeper level. "Tabula III" (photo-stencil intaglio-type with rust residue and collagraphy) is like a red dust cloud with specks of material emerging from an opaque windstorm: a moth, droplets of blood, even a small ladder ... all are suggested.

Dove, who teaches at the University of Montana, is of the "far" camp - as is Keith Howard, born in Australia and now heading up Contemporary Non-Toxic Printmaking at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which is said to offer the only graduate certificate available in non-toxic intaglio printmaking.

Howard's prints, large photographic "portraits" of made-up television news stills, uses the medium as a means to an end, but also shows it off; for instance, "Notes to Aftermarth" is a trick of the eyes: This isn't CNN, it's GNN. It's not "Aftermath," but "Aftermarth." Two other pieces offer up similar tricks of perception. All are large and bold, realized in the glaring hues of television news.

Then there's Friedhard Kiekeben, the farthest away of them all (geographically speaking) - the German-born artist heads the development of innovative printmaking at the University of Chester, England, though he is a regular visitor to RIT, as are most, if not all, of the exhibition's participants. Kiekeben offers a special installation made for Indianapolis - a series of small prints covering nearly an entire gallery wall, minimalist waves and swirls of line in blue, aqua or black - together entitled "Flow." These too, of course, are original intaglio-type prints produced using non-toxic processes.

The "locals" deserve a mention, too. Ginny Taylor Rosner, Donna Lee Adams and Cynthia Blasingham, while the least experimental aesthetically, still offer new modes of expression in a newly imagined medium. Rosner's "Forest, Meramek Nature Preserve" explores a sense of place; a hazy forest has an antique photograph, ghostlike feel. Similarly, Blasingham's "Indiana Wetlands" is a lovely, almost classical depiction of reeds, cattails and grasses bending in the wind. And Adams offers several perspectives on "Cemetery Lady," from close-up to imagined images of a cemetery monument.

In all, Contemporary Printmaking includes roughly 30 works by 10 artists. It's a testament to the expressive breadth of the print medium, and to the passion of a few dedicated artists who see no reason why Indianapolis can't be a player in artistic innovation - or at least get it the recognition it deserves. The exhibition is on view through Feb. 10 in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery, University of Indianapolis, 1400 E. Hanna Ave. Admission is free. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. For information, call 317-788-2135 or visit


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