Print International 4 at Shy Rabbit Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs is an affirmation to the viability of printmaking in the 21st century.
Though they have long called it a dying art form, owners Michael and Denise Coffee continue their efforts to ensure that printmaking won’t be swept away by the surging tide of new technology.
“I hate to say it, but its existence is rare,” Michael Coffee said. “You would have a hard time finding a print show of this sort of cross-section of work going on in the country right now.”
The juried show attracts printmakers from Durango to Poland. The Coffees received more than 400 submissions. It was up to juror Michael Krueger, an associate professor of art at the University of Kansas, to narrow it down to 98 pieces by 47 artists. The result is a diverse selection of mezzotints, wood etchings and chine collés (among many others.) Viewers will discover everything from soft renderings of wildlife to abstract visions of the uncertain present.
Whether Krueger had an overall theme in mind, there is a frequent allusion to the banal disintegration of society – whether it’s a tongue-in-cheek commentary or a post-apocalyptic scene.
“What I saw over and over again in the submissions was a strong commitment to print, to a medium that is as variable and flexible as the human spirit,” Krueger said in his juror’s statement.
The youngest juror yet, Krueger has had work exhibited around the United States, Europe and Asia. A sample of his work – along with the past jurors – is also on display at Shy Rabbit.
“We try to not get the same kind of juror each time,” Coffee said. “We don’t want the same show every year. That’s the main criteria: not to duplicate ourselves.”
The show features work from two Pagosa Springs artists – Gail Hershey and Judy Robbins – as well as Anthony Holmquist, an assistant professor of art at Fort Lewis College. Viewers will see some returning artists including two works by San Francisco printmaker Sylvia Solochek Walters.
“A big part of these shows, which are becoming quite landmark for us, is education,” Denise Coffee said.
“There is an implied and inherent craftsmanship about printmaking,” Michael Coffee said. “How do you make an interesting art that’s based on technology?”
Not to be confused with a computerized reproduction, a fine art print is created through centuries-old and new techniques that produce ‘originals’ rather than ‘copies.’ The printmaking process is the artistic medium.
“Once people get out and see it and understand it, they get excited about it,” Michael Coffee said. “I think it’s a continuing educational process.”
Shy Rabbit offers beginner to advanced printmaking and ceramic workshops during the summer months. There are three printmaking workshops lined up for August.
Unlike the more common media of visual art, printmaking is unique in its ability to capture a viewer’s interest beyond subject matter. Because it is becoming an obscure art form, Shy Rabbit’s Print International 4 is as important as an educational exhibit as an artistic show.
email@example.com. Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango.