PrintHouston is the local art community's yearly love letter to the printmaking medium. For an entire summer, PrintMatters, a group made up of printmaking artists, hosts special exhibitions, lectures and events dedicated to the art of printmaking in multiple galleries.Though put on by the artist's group, PrintHouston's invitation extends to national and global artists, as well . "Impressions | Abstractions," which opened at Sicardi Gallery on Friday, showcases the work of 20th century Latin American artists Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesús-Rafael Soto, Julio Le Parc, Luis Tomasello, Sérvulo Esmeraldo, León Ferrari and Gego.
Printmaking is, at its heart, the art of applying ink to paper to create lines, dots, pictures and many other types of imagery. Schoolchildren, lawyers and doctors do this everyday, so that print artists manage to flesh mini-mediums -- engraving, screenprinting and monoprint, to name a few -- out of the main one is nothing short of a modern art miracle. The works of the seven Latin American artists, make clear the distinctions in printmaking, from color to technique. By comparing Cruz-Diez, Soto and Tomasello, three of the seven, it is possible to make an argument why printmaking is such a versatile medium.
Cruz-Diez and Soto are Venezuelan artists who both studied at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Aplicadas and were early adopters of the kinetic art movement. Because of this, their art is similar; striped horizontal and vertical lines make up the crux of their respective works. However, while Soto's lines move up and down black-and-grey sculptures ("Escriture"), Cruz-Diez is more liberal with color, as in his Physichromies, Chromosaturations, Chromo-interference Environments series of chromatic serigraphs.
Usually a serigraph is a process where an image is stenciled into a mesh screen. Ink is applied to the part of the screen not covered by the image stencil, which is then squeezed through, creating a superimposed image. Cruz-Diez's process is unique in that he combines silkscreen and lithography with digital printing. The result is a work boasting 50 shades of color, such as in the translucent rainbows of "Induction chromatique a double fréquence," (1990). The piece is a pigment chromagraphy on Plexiglas, a process that allows color to bleed and blend, so what begins as blue and orange mixes, turning the top into a striking rainbow of colors.
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Tomasello, on the other hand, produces "lithographs," where ink is placed onto a stone or metal surface, then followed by a sheet of paper that removes the ink from the stone, creating the image. His pieces have white backgrounds, with blushes of color applied in strategic positions. "Atmosphére Chromoplastique No. 857" (2006) has light blue and green tints located in places that hint at the faint impression of a diamond -- or a heart, depending on the title of one's head, while "Atmosphére Chromoplastique No. 914" (2009), an acrylic on wood piece, is divided into squares, created by four horizontal or vertical lines. The vertical line squares have a green tint, causing them to stick out more, heightening the acrylic piece.
The lines in Cruz-Diez and Soto's kinetic pieces are also present in Tomasello's, revealing that even though each printmaker's work is different and special in its own way, the repeated, recognizable themes of lines, dots, pictures and other types of imagery are what make the practice of printmaking so interesting.
"Impressions | Abstractions" will be on view until August 31. Visit sicardi.com for more information.