Printmaking Without Paper and Studded Baseballs on View in Houston Exhibit

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Can a print still be a print if no paper is involved? Apparently yes, especially where artist Nicole Pietrantoni is concerned. The Walla Walla-based educator (she teaches printmaking and book arts in Washington) made an impression two years ago in a group show organized by PrintMatters.

That piece, This waterfall is falling for you, featured screenprinted acrylic plates mounted to the wall with C-clamps, similar to staggered shelving. As the ceiling-mounted light hit each plate, the white printed designs blocked the light and cast patterned shadows on the wall below. Those six shelves, each more narrow than the one above, revealed onto the wall a magical and ethereal image of a couple standing at the base of a tall waterfall.

Nicole Longnecker Gallery hosted that show, "NEXT 2014: A Biennial of Contemporary Prints," and invited Pietrantoni back, though this time around it's for the solo exhibit, "Natural Complexities."

This waterfall has been sold, but the piece was one of three, so Houstonians get another chance to view its sibling in this new exhibit. Pietrantoni also has a larger piece, Fixing The Sky, that utilizes the same concept in a four-column and four-row pattern, but with an interactive upgrade.

For once, viewers are invited to touch the art, and proximity will reveal tiny cut-outs of trees and people on the acrylic panels. Move them around and the shadow-cast image on the wall changes. She plays with the idea further, inviting more interaction in three smaller pieces: Move the rainbows in Build Your Own Landscape (III), move the moon across the sky in Build Your Own Landscape (I) and reposition trees in Build Your Own Landscape (II).

The artist's book-making abilities are evident in the five book series, Precipitous, shown above in their opened and closed states. Expanded, the book spans 14 feet in length and reveals text by Devon Wootten. Similar in concept, Cloven makes use of a hand-bound slipcase to house six books that, when fully opened, reach six feet in length.

On view in the front gallery are works by Vermont-based artist Julian Lorber. "How We Play" continues the narrative from last year's show, "Intentionally Dirty," in which he introduced textured paintings that simulate the effects of pollution with fine, powdery layers of dust (actually paint) nestling in the cracks and crevices. His technique is to create layers by positioning strips of archival tape at different angles, or through the use of a poured resin form to replicate the effect, then paint-dusting the edges for contrast.

Eleven works continue that story, ranging in size from ten inches in height to 60 inches in height, offering variations in color such as yellow to bronzed peach, or fluorescent pink to purple. He tinkers with the formula a bit in Portal, where a blistered, apocalyptic opening reveals an inside of colorless purity; and again in Foundation of Intention, leaving most of the canvas devoid of texture and layer.

Earlier this month, Nicole Longnecker Gallery exhibited Lorber's work (along with the work of three other artists) at Art Basel Miami. One of his newest pieces, baseballs affixed with steel spikes, received some attention at the booth, where one of the baseballs was embedded into a punched-out hole in the wall. We can view 22 of these baseballs here, titled How We Play Now, displayed on a table in pyramidal form. His message is that a favorite American pastime has been changed forever, as viewed through the prism of our social, political and environmental reality.

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