FIFTH NATIONAL MONOTYPE /MONOPRINT JURIED EXHIBITION

Statement by Juror Judith Brodsky:

There is an immediacy to monotypes. The monotype expresses the emotion of the artist in a way that no other medium does. Through monotypes, we have insights into the artist’s soul. One has only to survey the monotypes I have selected for this exhibition to see how the feelings of artists infuse the works and give them their impact.

In jurying this exhibition, I was very impressed by the skills not only of the artists I selected but also of all the artists who submitted work. Monotypes have become very sophisticated.  The earliest modern monotypes are the painterly monotypes of the French 19th century painters, particularly Degas. Basically, they are paintings on one plate, transferred onto paper by running the plate through a press. Artists today create monotypes through combining many different techniques that vary from the use of stencils, photographic transfers, even pin pricks as in Barbara Ryan Gartin’s work. Some monotypes even become sculptures. Elizabeth’s Lilly prints and cuts her foliage and root shapes and then combines them into hanging objects and Lisa Barthelson has created stones that look like relics from another planet with their diagrams and markings.

That’s not to say that artists are no longer using traditional monotype practices. Many do with great success. But as much as I admired the inventiveness and variety of techniques, I found the content even more fascinating and affecting. Inspiration for the artists came from many sources.

The impact of landscape on the imagination and sensibility of the artist is the most common. The tradition of landscape as metaphor for emotion goes back to the 19th century. John Stuart Mill defined the sublime through words as JMW Turner did in his paintings, drawings, and prints. They saw the sublime in the extremes of nature—storms, sunrises, sunsets, for instance, and that inspiration continues in many of the prints I selected. Stormy waves portrayed by Clara Dennison and Patricia White; a sudden burst of rain depicted by Megan Bongiovanni, mountains in the mist beyond a formidable barrier from which rises a strange apparition in Darryl Furtkamp’s monotype: these images of sensational natural occurrences found their way into the work of the artists much as they do in Turner’s. But as expressed through some of the monotypes in this exhibition, the way in which nature has changed has become a motif, transformed through hundreds of years of modernization as in Paul Sorenson’s view of the earth seen from above a plane invading the air space above the landscape, or the carelessness with which the natural environment is treated as in Patricia Keough’s scene of hikers coming on graffiti painted on the rocks at the side of a creek. On the other hand, a still life of Rachel Griffin’s orange blown up to epic proportions becomes a symbol of life asserting itself.

I was struck by the expression of anxiety, not just expressed through landscape, but also about health, aging, other aspects of social change and conditions.  The #Me Too movement has inspired Anna Mavromatis, Susan Heggestad, and Sarah Crooks to address the issues of sexual harassment and gender inequality in very moving images.  Others have addressed the issues of today that result from advances in life expectancy such as the onset of dementia, or issues arising from the prison system in our country—not political in the sense of nations confronting each other, but issues that affect the individual and which strike a human chord as in Tim Armstrong’s skull that looks as if it glows in the dark or Sarah Sipling’s drawing of a face looking anxiously out through a welter of lines that seem to stand for her confusion.

There’s also a theme of loneliness that runs through the images—an empty swimming pool depicted by Camila Linaweaver; an isolated figure looking towards Margot Rocklen’s landscape of bare trees with a dreamlike imaginary city seen beyond; a train engine viewed through the mist at night in Masha Schweitzer’s evocative painterly monotype; woodlands without inhabitants as in Frank Manzo’s light filled view through birches or Maryellen Sakura’s endless forest; or the stark isolated built structures in Robert Maloney’s and Nicholas Ruth’s pieces. The window in Lonnie Harvey’s monotype suggests that we, as viewers, are prisoners within, looking wistfully out.  At the same time, there is also hope expressed as in Nancy Doninger’s image of flowers sprouting from a woman’s brain or the exuberant plant forms that burst from the rectangular confines as in Judith Greenberg’s colorful print.

Related to the theme of loneliness is the sense of nostalgia. A pair of worn out red shoes below the silhouette of a house overlaid with a patterned heart, surrounded by roses and pages of text is like a memory that has surfaced in the mind of artist Christine Reising. Edward Sorensen’s dilapidated boat in drydock suggests a history of many excursions or fishing trips. Tamara Culbert’s child appears like a mirage in the midst of the image; and a tiny view of two remembered boys (?) appears as a reflected pattern on the head/heart of one of Kristin Onuf’s  almost scratched out figures.

The images range from the microscopic to the cosmic. Biology inspires a number of artists as does the universe. And perhaps the two are mirrors of each other. The cell becomes magical in Karen Wynn’s dividing cell that glows in pinks and purples. I also saw Summer Bhullar’s intertwining forms as biological in origin. Biological inspiration can also be found in the elegant turtles drawn so lovingly by Lynne Johnson, overlaid with geometric shapes that contrast with the organic representations of the turtles themselves. Betsy Gould’s sphere covered by a network of lines made me think of the moon in the night sky. Other prints that suggested the cosmos to me were Pat Cresson’s magical sphere overlaid with Islamic or Asian patterns floating above more mysterious patterns from similar sources, Gail Hansen’s nebula-like image that could also be an enlarged skin lesion, or Lou Ellis’s moon shape hovering over an abstract landscape.

History is also a source of inspiration. A head of a classical statue is the centerpiece of Ron Prigat’s still life and Leo J. Murphy manages to fit the whole history of the Mid East into one amusing satiric monotype. Like the artists responding to #Me Too or to the environment, his work relates to contemporary issues.

I don’t mean to neglect the exploration of form that also engages a number of the artists. The imaginative approaches to evocative shapes, the way in which line becomes a bearer of emotion, the use of spatial relationships exhibit the way in which formal devices also convey emotional impact. But these are more accessible to the viewer. I’ve concentrated in this short statement on some of the content that may be more difficult to comprehend with the hope that my few comments will provide a way into the meaning of the image.

I wish I had room to discuss all of the works I selected.  This exhibition not only shows the flexibility and the inventiveness that the monotype permits, it is also a microcosm of contemporary art practice at a moment where there is not one overriding style but rather a situation in which artists can express their emotions and reactions to the world through a plethora of choices.

ABOUT THE JUROR:

JUDITH K. BRODSKY, Board Chair, New York Foundation for the Arts, is Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of Visual Arts, Rutgers University; Founder, Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, renamed the Brodsky Center in her honor; Founder, Rutgers Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities and The Feminist Art Project, a national program to promote recognition of women artists; Organizer and Curator of The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society (2012); Founder and Chair of the international city-wide print festival, Philagrafika (2010); Past National President of ArtTable, the College Art Association, and the Women’s Caucus for Art; Former Dean, Associate Provost, and Chair of the art department, Rutgers campus at Newark; Contributor to the first comprehensive history of the American women’s movement in art,The Power of Feminist Art; An organizer of Momentum, a project focusing on women and transgender artists who use technology.

A printmaker and artist, Brodsky’s work is in many permanent collections including the Harvard University Museums, Library of Congress,Victoria & Albert, London, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and Stadtsmuseum, Berlin. Brodsky works in series. Her last series was titled “Memoir of an Assimilated Family,” over 100 etchings based on old family photographs. Her current series is “The 20 Most Important Scientific Questions of the 21st Century.” Learn more about Judith Brodsky here.

Selection of artwork from the Fifth National Monotype/Monoprint Exhibition at The Art Complex Museum.