What to make of an artist whose body of work consists of wood block prints, yet declares, “I am a painter, not a print maker”?
It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around the visual disconnect of seeing graphic prints and thinking of them as paintings, but artist Vanilia Majoros, whose solo exhibit “BRAVO!” opened Saturday at DaSilva Gallery in Westville, makes a persuasive case.
“Every image is one of a kind, just like a painting. I brush oil paint on the block and often apply paint directly on the image. The wood block is one tool among many, used in making the painting. I think of them as paintings—printed paintings,” she said.
It is hard to disagree with the art historian who has authored over six scholarly books on the subject or European Modernism in her native Hungary. A case can be made that Majoros’s works as presented at DaSilva Gallery are more than prints or paintings. They are creations that defy and transcend simple, categorical description.
The exhibit is inclusive of three series based on Majoros’s musings of architectural structure and elements within. “Following Calatrava” is an homage to Spanish architect and sculptor Santiago Calatrava and his design for the building of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “Welcome to Chelsea” invites its viewers to the arts district of New York City, while the “BRAVO!” series transforms the Avery Fisher Hall building, home of the New York Philharmonic, through the prism of creative color and form.
Some works are at once image-based two-dimensional designs, but are also highly dimensional and sculptural in their presentation. Interactive pieces like “Following Calatrava,” a six-piece wall installation, invite gallery visitors to do what is most often forbidden—to touch and interact with the art.
Majoros encourages visitors to create their own compositions by rotating images, experiencing first-hand, the idea of change through movement. It is a theme she has continued to explore since her first rotation piece was presented in 2009 at the then-“Westville Gallery.”
American artist George Rickey wrote about his own work: “I used gravity, momentum, inertia, movements of rotation, acceleration, and the laws governing movement as my new box of colors.” Majoros’s “box of colors” also incorporates the theme of rotational movement. Whether the works are powered by the human hand, electrical current, or the visual movement of elements within a two-dimensional composition, the notion of movement for Majoros remains a metaphor for not only the constant change that governs the physical world, but change as it relates to all facets of the human experience.
Mojoros creates a fusion of science and art as she explores degrees of kinetic movement and natural phenomena, integrating movement with imagery of dynamic architectural elements and places that have symbolic meaning for her.
In the images that do not rotate, the component of physical movement, as in her “Welcome to Chelsea” series, Majoros rotates and repeats wood block impressions, creating a kind of kaleidoscopic effect, the result of rotational movement used in the work’s creation. The singular image containing representational elements, juxtaposed and repeated, gives birth to a unified abstraction in totality, and is still one-of-a-kind image making.
Two pivoting translucent works, which appropriately sit in the gallery’s windows, offer yet another dimension of her work with the inclusion and interplay of light and its effects as pieces are rotated.
Gallery co-owner and curator Gabriel DaSilva, who has devoted the main gallery space to works on paper for the calendar year, said the exhibit is really “two shows in one.” In the abutting frame-shop gallery, visitors can see remnants of a recent mid-century exhibit that includes original prints by Helen Frankenthaler, Jim Dine and Andy Warhol.
Upon seeing the images, Majoros spoke to DaSilva about her collection of previous works that pay homage to those very same artists. Her small woodblock prints now hang with the larger images of 20th century icons, offering interesting comparisons to her work in the main gallery.
Majoros’s distinguished career includes a Ph.D from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, authorship of six monographs about Hungarian painters, and more than 100 articles about 19th Century Art, Modernism, and Contemporary Art. As a senior fellow, Majoros worked as the head of the Art Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. In 2005, after ten solo photographic exhibits in Hungary, Majoros began exhibiting in the United States. From 2006 to 2008 she was a guest student at Yale’s School of Art and has been both student and instructor at New Haven’s Creative Arts Workshop.
Whether one ultimately views the exhibit as a collection of graphic prints, or as unique, single-impression paintings, this is a show that will appeal on many levels. And to that we can all say, “Bravo!”
To take one of the painter’s images for a spin, or for more information, contact DaSilva Gallery. The exhibit runs from April 10 through May 5.