'Illusions of space' in printmaking exhibit at HCC gallery

For the Columbia Flier
One of the creative advantages of working within the print medium is that artists can work variations into a s

The group exhibit "Printmaking Invitational" at Howard Community College makes it clear that there is more than one way to make a print. Moreover, the printmaking process also gets deployed in artist-made books that express the distinctive sensibilities of the artists who make them.

One of the creative advantages of working within the print medium is that artists can work variations into a series of prints. Nicholas H. Ruth, for instance, says in an artist statement that his prints involve "resonant color and colorfully constructed illusions of space."

You can see what Ruth is talking about in his five exhibited monoprints. Deploying such geometric forms as circles, rectangles and cones, the artist creates compositions in which these forms seemingly float in space. Also, his use of assertive colors is a sure way to grab your attention. And there are times when the deployment of orbs and poles an turn an exercise in geometric abstraction into an image that will remind you of trees.

Variation of a somewhat different sort is practiced by Julie Shapiro, whose six prints feature dense clusters of straight and slightly arced lines whose bright coloration definitely captures your attention.

Shapiro also makes occasional use of cut-out paperforms applied to an otherwise flat paper surface, resulting in one print whose green-on-green appearance literally achieves a bit of environmental depth.

If the above-mentioned artists create with an essentially abstract vocabulary, other artists explore the interplay of abstraction and figuration.

Rina Yoon has an "Earthbody" series in which the prints incorporate photo-based images of her own body. Her figure is generally seen in a hunched-over position, as if curling into and effectively merging witha nature-evocative field of leafy forms that are themselves set against a pitch-black background.

There's also human figuration in a series of etchings by the Chinese-born artist Zhiyuan Cong. "The Thinker Under the Great Wall" depicts a contemplative figure emerging from a blurry background. Similarly, "Religious Overlapping" features three women who are partly concealed by dark and abstract strands and coils. This artist's approach becomes more spare in "Commemorative Arches," whose architectural form sharply asserts the Asian cultural influence.

There also are buildings to behold in Jessica Meuninck-Ganger's otherwise very different screenprint monotype assemblages. Printed on both sides and hanging like banners in the gallery air, "Cross-Link," "Pitch" and "Interface" include images of building forms that emerge from a rust-and-brown-toned background. There are even images of utility poles and tangled wires to give a sense of a jumbled urban scene.

Pushing beyond the two-dimensional printmaking norm, this exhibit also presents examples of paper art that include artist-made books.

Kerri Cushman's examples of handmade paper constructions include "Clutch," in which a recycled egg carton has been given handles and now resembles a small and very unconventional purse. If you want to carry eggs around, this is the purse for you.

Cushman and several other artists in the exhibit also have made fold-out books containing words and images for you to read.

"Printmaking Invitational" runs through Sept. 20 in the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Running concurrently in HCC's Art Department Gallery is "The Earliest Americans," which showcases American Indian stone tools and accompanying text panels describing the technologies involved in their creation. Go to www.howardcc.edu.

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