Print competition brings artists from all over the country to Chico
Karin Breuer had her work cut out for her. The curator for the Achenbach Collection for Graphic Arts in San Francisco was given the daunting task of choosing 74 variously striking prints from the 700-plus images submitted by both established and emerging artists from across the United States.
The selections will appear in the Janet Turner Print Museum’s seventh biennial National Print Competition Exhibition, which will run through March 2 at three Chico galleries, two of them at Chico State.
While some of Breuer’s choices are very traditional—like Arizonan Julie Heisterman’s reduction woodcut of a rustic garden scene, or Ohioan Suzanne Chouteau’s “Generation: Respect” etching—Turner Museum curator Catherine Sullivan explained that Breuer gravitated toward more edgy and unusual content.
“The process [of printmaking] is so laborious, but the content and the image need to make a statement or she doesn’t care about it,” Sullivan said. “We wanted to see what this generation thinks about art when they’re making prints.”
“Coming to Terms,” a colorful, cartoon-like screenprint by Mark Hosford of Tennessee, pictures an R. Crumb-like silhouette figure of a girl resembling Alice in Wonderland standing before a large, pink brain-like creature with tentacles, black holes for eyes and tiger tails sticking out of holes in its body. Upon the brain is perched a black panther whose decapitated head is being thrust toward the taken-aback “Alice” in a yellow “thought balloon” straight out of the comics. It’s an interesting tableau, to say the very least.
Michigan artist Mary Brodbeck is one of two artists who had two prints selected for the show. She depicts a misty canyon with delicate pastel foliage in the foreground in her minimalistic and pretty abstract woodblock print she calls “Empire.” Rhode Island resident Sunghee Pae’s two untitled etching/screenprints are eerily pleasing to the eye, resembling black-and-white aerial photographs of odd, sparse, possibly even snowy, neighborhoods with street lamps and power poles, but no houses.
A water-based woodblock print by Yoonmi Nam of Kansas simply called “#1” is striking in its simplicity. It pictures a small, abstracted, scratchy black figure resembling the number one in the center of a large field of white.
“The prints represent about two-thirds of the states,” Sullivan pointed out. “We have several from Illinois. The Midwest, Northeast and Southeast are little hotbeds of printmaking. These are places where printmaking has been a means of producing art for a long time.”
Rodolfo Salgado Jr., a recent graduate from Chico State with a B.A. in art, is the only Chico resident whose work was chosen for the show. Salgado’s etching/monoprint “Semi-Salacious” is notable for its ability to inspire various interpretations of its large abstract green ant-like organism engaged in an unclear communion with a brown figure against a murky, mottled background.
“Part of the reason we do this [national competition/show] is two-fold,” explained Sullivan. “Chico has a vibrant arts community, and it has the university. We’re training that next generation of vibrant community. Not everyone can go to San Francisco to see art.”
Breuer will be in Chico for the reception tonight (Feb. 7) to get a look at the artwork hanging in all three galleries (Breuer chose the works from digital images; the reception will be the first time she gets to see the actual prints).
Among the awards presented will be four “purchase awards” for Breuer’s top four choices, meaning that they will become part of the Turner collection, “adding to the collection in the most current way,” as Sullivan put it.
“Printmaking is a very laborious way of making art,” reiterated Sullivan, a former printmaker herself. “I’m glad people are still willing to do it, and are staying relevant with their times. I’m really glad there’s still this much energy in this type of old art form.”