If writers often write about what they know, does the same hold true for printmakers? Perhaps for Nuong Tran it does. Nuong Van-Dinh Tran was a founding member of Washington Printmakers Gallery. She remained a member of the gallery until her death in 2013. In this retrospective of Nuong’s work, we’re invited to enjoy a peacefulness that scenes of domestic familiarity bring. Here we see a view of the backyard from what is most likely a bedroom window. In another print, we’re in the yard looking up to the sky, through the leafless oak tree towering beside the house. In another, we get a close-up of deep-red peonies that line the yard’s fence. We also get a snapshot of Ling-Ling, Nuong’s black cat as he prowls the yard on an autumn afternoon. All these scenes are ever so familiar. Perhaps that’s why the prints make such an impact, the simplicity of Nuong’s images allow us an intimacy we might otherwise overlook in the familiar. Even her abstracts convey a simplicity in form and boldness of color that is both intimate and familiar. Who was Nuong? Her prints tell us much about what inspired her – nature – specifically water lilies, trees and butterflies. In this memorial retrospective we’re also invited to be inspired by the simple beauty of the familiar. What a wonderful celebration of life!
Artist member Matina Marki Tillman will have prints on display in two national exhibitions during August and September.
“They don’t let Carmen dance,” a solarplate etching that carries on the artist’s series of charcoal drawings on vellum directly etched onto solarplates, is currently on display in the Northwest Area Arts Council’s Real People 2014, a show dedicated to the human figure and portraiture (Aug. 7 through Sept. 28). This recent work is the artist’s homage to the uncompromised female, as portrayed in two of her lifelong inspirations, Bizet’s opera, Carmen, and Kakoyiannis’ film Stella. Also this fall, “Arabesque,” the first of this series of etchings, will be hosted in the Salmagundi Club gallery in New York City for the Hudson Valley Art Association’s 82nd National Juried Exhibition running from Sept. 20-26.
“They don’t let Carmen dance” was also featured in the inaugural Washington Printmakers Gallery member’s exhibition at the new Georgetown gallery space in July. With the upcoming Hudson Valley show, prints from the “Arabesque” edition will be appearing in their sixth national exhibition in two years, including venues at the Customs House Museum in Clarksville, Tennessee; the Museum of Printing History in Houston, Texas; and the New York Society of Etchers national intaglio exhibition in New York’s National Arts Club gallery. This September, “Arabesque” will travel home to be included in the member’s show in WPG’s new gallery.
From July 30th – August 31st, 2014, Washington Printmakers Gallery presents the 17th Annual National Small Works Exhibition. This exhibition displays thirty non-members’ works originating from across the country and selected by juror Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the Katzen Center at American University. Running concurrently is the solo exhibition Waiting for Godot by the 2013 grand prizewinner, Diane Alire. Alire’s exhibition features twenty unique photogravures, which “juxtapose and layer the female and male figures with landscapes, images of walls, graffiti, and textures found in natural and urban settings.”
Alire’s work explores the human figure in artistic ways. She makes the figure a part of landscape and the world around it. Portraiture and landscape come together to create contemporary prints that surprise and challenge the viewer. Her 2013 Small Works prizewinning piece, Waiting for Godot, sets the tone for the exhibition. This piece explores the costumed female dancer figure, while the rest of the exhibition explores figures in the nude, particularly Shaded. Shaded juxtaposes a female nude, waist up, against a window. The female and window alternate foreground with background, and in a sense, the piece surrenders those two labels. In one way, the female is the subject in the window, and in another way, the female stands before the window. How are human figures reflected in our surroundings and how do our surroundings house those figures? Alire contrasts soft human curves against hard angular structures. Shaded acts as a window into the artistic mind where wall and figure combine to create one subject matter, which Alire masters.
While Alire’s exhibition explores similar themes in various interpretations, this year’s National Small Works Exhibition takes on many artists with unique themes, few which are similar. From pears to numbers, the Small Works exhibition exemplifies subjects’ and printmaking’s variety and potential. Elizabeth Dove’s All Letters demonstrates the many levels that make a print. Dove layers letters A – Z to create a simple yet complex print. Solely black and white, this print allows the letters to act as the work’s main focus. The artist takes a familiar concept, letters of the alphabet, and makes it art. She complicates and plays with our preconceived idea of what the alphabet should look like on paper. In this print, components of literature become art and art becomes literature. Much like Diane Alire’s works, All Letters plays with two concepts that become one.
Whew! There have been lots of changes recently, including our move to a brand new, beautiful gallery space in Georgetown. Photos to come. Washington Printmakers Gallery in Georgetown
Lauren King, our intern from Pennsylvania State University, wrote the following reaction to our current exhibition,”A Wonder-Filled Life” by Neena Birch. The show will continue through Sunday, June 29th.
From May 28 – June 29, 2014, Washington Printmakers Gallery presents a retrospective exhibition on Neena Birch’s extensive collection entitled A Wonder-Filled Life. A one-time member of WPG, Birch created these 60 prints, drawings and paintings, which all demonstrate her diverse and evolving artistic style. This exhibition pays tribute to that talent and consequently her admirable creative impact that still lives.
Neena Birch’s works combine nature with imagination. Upon entering, the viewer sees the moss-covered sculpture Bed. It awaits a sleeper, and in a sense, the visit resembles a reverie. Birch uses recurring themes such as birds, women, pears, and flowers, and gives these everyday subjects meaning and creativity. Her women become trees; the pears are anthropomorphized, while the birds take on a life of their own. These works evoke emotion and thought that may differ with each viewer. No piece is the same, yet they all evoke a sense of Birch’s artistic hand and mind.
Birch’s exhibit exemplifies variations on recurrent themes, and this exhibition links these themes in one show. One fascinating theme is the flower. Her floral depictions are unlike any of her other works, which made me question her intention. They seem like the work of another artist, but similar to the rest of her works, they too are fantasized. Like the pears, the birds, and the other subjects, the flower lithographs have their own variations: they are larger than life. Birch creates an enlarged depiction where curves, shadows, and shapes make up the flower. They are dreamlike and realistic at the same time. Monochromatic yet enticing, these lithographs break down the flowers’ forms and give the viewer new perspectives. Neena Birch’s works demonstrate her true artistic talent that creates new realities.