Broad Street's Gershman Y is the center of Philadelphia's freshest manifestation of printmaking as it opens its halls to “Making Our Mark: Philadelphia Printmakers,” hosted by the brand new collective Star Wheel Printers. This group started by Elaine M. Erne, Nicole Patrice Dul and Hanna Aufschauer seeks to recognize the potent body of printmakers already active in Philly, while providing a means by which to feature new work and offer a community of like-minded artists to show and create etchings, woodcuts, screenprints, lithographs and everything in between.
It goes without saying that, although this group of print and graphic artists sometimes overlaps or shares media, the images they produce are as varied and unique as the individual artists themselves. From the grim to the bright, the playful to the sublime, there are representations, abstractions, figures and textures of all sorts present and accounted for.
Rebecca Brame has two of the largest images in the show, and also two of the most foreboding. Both are woodcuts with their signature carved out areas of positive and negative space, and both picture emaciated-looking bodies with empty eyes. In “The One Who's Left,” there is a singular crouching figure in black and white, desperately wrapped around itself, while “Carried” shows a similar figure in orange shades, clinging tightly to a sickly looking horse. Despite their somewhat gruesome nature, both prints are quite striking and impossible to ignore.
For Christopher Carter, screenprint and watercolor allow him to submerge the viewer to 20,000 leagues. For “Into The Deep,” we encounter a bright, thickly outlined octopus rippling with patterns as its tentacles unfurl into the blue and purple hues of the surrounding paint. Circular bubbles froth out from around the creature's oblong, orange head as it speeds off toward unseen prey.
An aerial shot (or is it a microscope slide?) by Marie H. Elcin offers a range of texture and pattern as she combines her printmaking techniques with red embroidery. The small but mighty piece is called simply “Life,” and looks not unlike the streets of a bustling city and a crowd of people from high above, although it could just as easily be a spread of some type of crimson lichen across the surface of a rock. Elcin, however, leaves it up to us to make that call.
Speaking of rocks, Rebecca Gilbert makes the chunks of humble earth her subject in every one of her inclusions. A series of three shows stone formations in horseshoe shapes amidst fields of green, yellow and blue. Just to the left, “Stone Wreath” presents a gritty semicircle of rocks that are easily the most realistic rendering in the entire exhibit, with mottled granite and sandstone butting up against one another in a bumpy but intentional arrangement.
Jose A. Ortiz-Pagan utilizes rust to create industrial layouts of machines and symbols in their telltale reddish-brown iron oxide hues. Commingling engines with constellations and specters of coin-operated contraptions alongside grids of X shapes, he provides a view of the decaying past with a monochromatic palette centered around the city as it currently stands.
There are many more images and imaginings on display in “Making Our Mark,” which opens up the door to a wide array of talents in the Philadelphia print world. It is a capable exhibit full of affordable work with a smattering of styles and techniques; a sampling platter for the printmaking community at large. Be sure to check out the exhibit before it closes on June 7.
The Gershman Y is located at 401 South Broad St., Philadelphia; 215-545-4400; gershmany.org.