A menagerie of images from abstract to informative at Print Center

Arts / Article

The upstairs of The Print Center is a vibrant place this summer with a pair of exhibits that delve into the illustrative and the abstract, as well as history, transportation and nature. In one half of the gallery, artist Allison Bianco displays over 30 prints in her solo show, “The Baby Powder Trick,” which deals with maritime and other forms of travel, weather patterns, and where the two often dangerously intersect. On the flip side is a compilation of recent works by four artists published by Durham Press, including Polly Apfelbaum, Chitra Ganesh, Beatriz Milhazes and Mickalene Thomas.

Mickalene Thomas, “Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires.”

Dominating the far wall in the Durham Press show is a more than 6-foot print by Mickalene Thomas titled “Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires.” Entwined together amid a fragmented landscape of various plants, patterns and colors are two nude African women, asleep and seemingly perfectly content. Apart from the print’s notable size, the conflagration of disparate elements separated by volcanic orange cracks is a busy contrast to the two slumbering figures who seem carefree and relaxed despite the schisms in their environment.

Polly Apfelbaum, "Love Alley 4."

Polly Apfelbaum, “Love Alley 4.”

Another long, horizontal print, “Love Alley 4” by Polly Apfelbaum, is a mixture of retro floral patterns, explosive fireworks, and the gestural language of asterisks and speech bubbles. Throwing back to the era of free love and flower power, the print seems straight out of the ’60s, but still maintains a presence in more recent graffiti art owing to its quick, punctuated shapes and its lengthy mural-like sprawl.

Chitra Ganesh, "Architects of the Future - Away from the Watcher."

Chitra Ganesh, “Architects of the Future – Away from the Watcher.”

Beatriz Milhazes echoes Apfelbaum with her “Snake Dreaming” piece, which operates in a similar lexicon of floral and psychedelic patterns, while Chitra Ganesh seems to diverge completely from the others in a completely illustrative style. Ganesh’s text elements relate somewhat to Apfelbaum’s vaguely syntactical characters, but otherwise the narrative and comic-strip configuration draw it into its own corner verging on Roy Lichtenstein, sci-fi territory.

Allison Bianco, Selection from "Go Ahead and Sink."

Allison Bianco, Selection from “Go Ahead and Sink.”

On the opposite end of the second floor gallery there is a large body of work by Allison Bianco. One entire wall of the gallery is full of framed prints that depict ships from various time periods, shipping containers and, inexplicably, even a trailer partially submerged and presumably wrecked in vast pastel waters. These scenes are calm and focused despite the destruction, and they seem relatively humorous too in light of the mishaps.

Allison Bianco, "Zeppelin."

Allison Bianco, “Zeppelin.”

Bianco pulls from her interpretations of locations, landmarks and historical events to construct personal imaginings of stories that reach across time and place. Her “The Sinking of the Matunuck” seems somewhat prescient in its landscape of the Rhode Island town with Hurricane Sandy now in hindsight, while “Zeppelin” seeks to recapture the perceived simplicity of the long-gone era of airships before their ultimate fall from social grace after the crashing of the Hindenburg and the rise of jet engines. By looking both forward and backward, Bianco’s stories strike the viewer as a type of historical fiction in which the basic facts maintain their hold on the narratives even if the scenery emerges as unreal and stylized.

In the first floor gallery of The Print Center, there is also the second part of the “Ephemeral Sprawl” project in which objects of print such as fliers, books, pamphlets, historical documents and advertisements from all manner of sources are displayed sideby side to demonstrate just how much printed ephemera informs our understanding of art and culture.

All of these exhibits will be on display at The Print Center through August 2.

The Print Center is located at 1614 Latimer St., Philadelphia; [email protected]printcenter.org