Printmaking, despite its association with heavy presses, frightening acid washes and unforgiving etchings on plates, is a surprisingly flexible medium.
From lithographs (which apply greasy crayons to stone) to aquatints (ink to copper or zinc plates) to multiple print processes combined, an artist can achieve almost any effect through printing.
Women's Work: Contemporary Women Printmakers from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, a showcase of 56 prints completed by modern and contemporary women artists from the past 35 years, proves as much. Its prints emulate Renaissance paintings, political posters and even surreal collage, to name a few.
That it allows for such experimentation is the beauty of printmaking, says Jessica Hunter Larsen, curator at Colorado College's I.D.E.A. Space, which opens the show this coming week. She adds that "restimulat[ing] the creative juices" via printmaking, though, can come with a price: A woodblock print by renowned Color Field artist Helen Frankenthaler required 46 individual woodblocks pressed on one length of paper.
The show, curated by directors at the Art Gym at Marylhurst University and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University, in Salem, Ore., has been to five institutions before CC. The themes deal with issues of minimalism and formalism, nature, the body and, of course, feminism.
Refreshingly, Women's Work has less to do with women as artists and more to do with the varietal nature of printmaking, executed by a conglomeration of artists who are, says Hunter Larsen, at the top of their game. The women, most of whom are not primarily known as printmakers, make up an all-star roster: Louise Bourgeois, Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith and 22 others.
"It's a show of women artists, and yet there really is nothing in the work in the show that necessarily ties them together in a way that would say, 'OK, this is a women's show,'" says Hunter Larsen. "So I think the title is interestingly ironic."