That’s a print
Turner Print Competition exhibition brings out the best in three galleries
Arranged around the periphery of the floor and starting to edge up the walls with the help of gallery director Carla Resnick, a diverse selection of fine art prints is being arranged for exhibition. Resnick, with the aid of a rolling office chair, a few simple tools, a large carpenter’s level and a tall aluminum step ladder, is in the process of devising the most aesthetically informed arrangement of the 25 prints allocated to the 1078 Gallery for its portion of the sixth Turner Print Competition.
So far the only certain thing is the placement of S.L. Dickey’s large, dimensional screenprint, “Ectoplasm: The Mysterious Frontier,” a folding triptych printed in bright, solid colors and heavy black outlines on wood. The piece is striking for its color, its three-dimensional aspect and its air of antique mystery, evocative of the era of Buck Rogers and carnival seances. It provides a strong focal point for the 1078’s portion of the print exhibition.
Resnick has been working closely with Janet Turner Print Gallery curator Catherine Sullivan and University Art Gallery curator Jason Tannen, selecting which prints will work best in each gallery, and the selections at her gallery share a phenomenal quality of conception and execution if little else.
With subject-matter ranging from Little Orphan Annie to a scraggly, knife-blade-licking rabbit with human hands, to an intricate hinged arrangement of geometrical panels framed in brushed steel, the contestants in this year’s print competition provide a rich bounty of aesthetic experience. And such diversity requires a worthy judge.
The juror of this year’s competition is Deborah Cornell, head of the printmaking department at Boston University, and an internationally exhibited artist in her own right, whose areas of focus are printmaking, installation and virtual reality environments.
While in Chico, Cornell will not only make her final selection and announcement of winning prints after viewing the exhibitions in the galleries, she will also present a public talk about her own work and present a workshop for printmaking students on “Alternative Aquatint Techniques.”
Cornell was gracious enough to respond to the CN&R’s e-mailed inquiry about the competition process. I was particularly interested in the challenges involved in judging the art based on viewing the 600 submitted entries as represented by photographic slides. I asked, “Do you ever find that seeing a piece in the flesh, so to speak, can change significantly your reaction to it as opposed to your reaction to its photographic representation?”
Cornell responded, “The selection process is always a challenge from slides, where the intricate surfaces and colors that artists work so hard to achieve are less clear. Since I have spent a great deal of time with all the forms of printmaking, I am fortunate to be able to rely on this experience. It helps me to interpret what I see intelligently, and to reduce any surprises when seeing the work itself! I always consider image first, but I also look at each work very closely so that I can evaluate process.
“Slides make the prints appear approximately all the same size. When jurying, it’s crucial to know how large a work is to be able to interpret how the artist intended the work’s impact and presentation. (It’s also important to ensure that there is a range of types of work in the show.) When you first see a print in actuality, the thing that does change sometimes is the presence of the works. Sometimes seeing a work in the right scale makes it even more powerful than I expected!”
Judging by the pieces I was allowed to preview at 1078, she’ll be in for some pleasant surprises.