When artists and master printers work together, the creative results can be impressive.

The proof can be seen many times over in “Contemporary Collaborations: Artist and Master Printer,” a Portland Museum of Art exhibit expertly guest-curated by Bruce Brown, retired educator, art collector and former curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport.

“I wanted to focus attention on the importance of original prints created by living artists associated with Maine who have collaborated with master printers at several of the most significant presses in this country,” said Brown, a collector of contemporary graphic arts.

“The importance of the exhibit is that it explores the collaboration between artist and printmaker and shows the process of working together in creating a print,” he explained. “In addition, I wanted to call attention to prints in the permanent collection of the PMA.”

An example of this process can be seen in a continuously run videotape as part of the exhibit featuring 35 prints by 30 contemporary artists with Maine connections.

Some exciting nationally known artists selected for the exhibit are David Driskell, Gideon Bok, Robert Indiana, Richard Estes, Yvonne Jacquette, Alison Hildreth, Charlie Hewitt and John Walker.

When producing an edition of original fine art prints, an artist works in close collaboration with a master printer, working and reworking a print several times on a plate, stone, block or screen until it meets the artist’s approval.

The quality of paper and amount of ink used, manipulated and adjusted by the printmaker can bring out the artist’s original idea or blur or reduce it. When the artist approves the image, he or she numbers and signs each work in the edition. The block, stone, or metal plate upon which it was created is then destroyed.

An exciting serigraph by Driskell, scholar, author, artist and educator, who has a home and studio in Falmouth, is titled “Yoruba Couple.” In it, layers of colors provide different textures to a basically flat surface. Interesting patterns in this semi-abstract warm and colorful work create a strong sense of energy. This powerful work was created in collaboration with master printmaker Curlee Holton.

Jacquette’s lithograph titled “Aerial View of 33rd Street” shows the rooftops of tenement buildings and metropolitan traffic below. Created with master printmaker John Chris Erickson, its blurred edges are characteristic of the lithography medium.

Estes’ silkscreen titled “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” created with master printmaker Luther Davis, shows the clean, sharp lines typical of Estes’ style, as well as his unusual use of perspective. This huge print features 110 colors.

Indiana’s etching and aquatint titled “Mother of Exiles,” done in recognition of the Statue of Liberty’s 100th anniversary in 1986, is one of the most famous works in the exhibit. It was created with printmakers Anthony Kirk, Orlando Condesco and Susan Volka at the Vinalhaven Press in Vinalhaven.

The work was created in four editions in various colors. The edition exhibited in “Contemporary Collaborations: Artist and Master Printer” is white and various shades of blue. Lady Liberty wears a crown with stars around her in the background and has a tear streaming down her face. Indiana created this version in the 1980s when the United States was turning away immigrants seeking asylum. Indiana stated, “I think Liberty has a great deal to cry for.” The work, done in 1986, is timeless.

Bok’s six-plate intaglio color etching with aquatint, made with master printmaker Peter Pettengill, is an intricate and beautiful work – a masterpiece. Etched lines in each plate hold their clear and fine images. Many plates were used to bring out separate colors. This work is titled “Wingate Studio With Aldo’s Press # 2: No Sleep Till Hinsdale,” referring to an 1850s press used in previous intaglio printmaking by such well-known artists as Picasso and Matisse in collaboration famous master printmaker Aldo Crommelynck. Pettengill bought the old, unique printing press when Crommelynck closed his atelier in Paris in 2003.

Hewitt’s huge drypoint print titled “Portland Tumble,” which shows the use of the Maine College of Art’s large printing press, was created with master printmaker James Cambonne.

Astrid Bowlby’s series of etchings on paper created with master printmaker Cindi Ettinger, titled “Round Robin Pearly Moted,” is outstanding. Fine lines repeated in harmonious patterns reflect a sense of tranquility in an intricate design.

An exciting part of the exhibit features eleven small prints of MCA alumni displayed in a glass-covered case. For the past three years, MCA has organized an extensive weekend of printmaking. It is not possible to include the names of all alumni artists, but prints created by Matthew Blackwell, Priscilla Dreyman, Barbara Rita Jenny, Justin Richel, Shannon Rankin and Catherine Scwenk are impressive.

Don’t miss this wonderful exhibit showcasing an important creative trend in America over the past 50 years that was popular in Europe in the 1850s.

“Contemporary Collaborations: Artist and Master Printer” will be showing through Aug. 10.

The museum at 7 Congress Square is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, $4 for youths ages 6-17 and free for children under 6. Admission is free from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Pat Davidson Reef has a master’s degree in education and has taught art history at Catherine McAuley High School in Portland. She has written two children’s books, “Dahlov Ipcar, Artist,” and “Bernard Langlais, Sculptor.” She teaches children’s literature for teacher recertification for the American Institute for Creative Education.



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