The whorl of a shell floating beneath a dripping shock of blue greets you as you enter the gallery at Creative Arts Workshop on Audubon Street. The work — Tributary by Maura Galante — combines solid forms and abstract color, sharp lines and flowing textures, a small encyclopedia of printmaking technique and fitting title page to “Expressions in Print: An Exhibition of Printmaking,” which showcases the far-ranging possibilities for what printmaking can do.
The exhibit runs through July 21.
Maybe, like me, when you think of printmaking, you think mostly of things resembling, well, print — the insides of books, or woodcuts. Printmaking certainly encompasses those forms, and several of the works in the exhibit exemplify that aesthetic at its best. But other works, but Barbara Harder’s Migrations 181, show that printmaking techniques can also create the kinds of luminous, gauzy forms you might associate more with painting, and the kind of artmaking in which chance is a key element: the way the ink runs and dries, the interaction of pigment and paper, the final colors when all is done.
That printmaking can be simpatico with abstraction and chance allows for some surprises as well. At first glance, Nancy Eisenfeld’s long, vertical piece reads as a study in form, pure and simple, an exploration of lines and textures. Reading the title — Climbing in Sanitas — created, for me, a sudden shift in perspective. Suddenly the lines organized themselves into recognizable forms. There were craggy rock faces, fissures from erosion and settling, cracks formed by water. If you looked down over your shoulder, the drop to the left got a little vertiginous. And somewhere in those rays of lines to the right of the void, as the piece’s name suggests, there was a path upward.
Several of the pieces take advantage of the bold lines and fields of color so amenable to printmaking to create representational forms. Ralph Schwartz’s Bird of Paradise and Lily hearken back to prints from far-flung places before the age of photography began. Julita Januszewska’s Ennui has an art-deco curl and precision to its lines. Jennifer Ruth’s Spotsylvania and Aversboro have the feeling of a travelogue. The figures in Fethi Meghelli’s For Every Boat That Departs, For Every Tree That Grows and Whispering Voices and Other Lives have an energy to them that seems at once serious and celebratory, encompassing joy and pain in equal measure and leaving the viewer hanging in the balance.
Several pieces turn toward the humorous. Barry Keller’s Nudescape and Nudescape 2 are close cuts of nudes reclining in statuesque poses, looking for all the world like rock formations. Marilynn Arm’s Always Save the Buttons is a playful romp of form.
And then there’s Alexis Brown’s Untitled, a riot of lines that finds a fitting subject in a flock of floating octopi and what could be a horse. Are they fighting? Dancing? How could land and sea creatures be doing anything together? It doesn’t matter — the surreal dynamism in undeniable and fun, bursting off the wall of CAW’s gallery. It represents the wildest end of the work in the exhibit, and at the same time, hearkens back to the shell at the entrance — the exhibit coming full circle.
“Expressions in Print” runs at Creative Arts Workshop, 80 Audubon St., through July 21. Visit CAW’s website for hours and more information.