Printmaking

Printmaking and appropriation are closely linked in my mind.  The serial quality of printmaking relates to the doppelgänger effect of appropriation in other art.  My current interest in highlighting how history affects the here and now requires that I somehow emphasize that relationship.  Often that involves repeating old forms, styles, and images.  I look at artists like Allison Hyde to see how this repetition can go beyond merely invoking antecedents.

Last spring I had the chance to hear Allison Hyde‘s artist talk at CSU Chico.  I missed her show at the 1078 Gallery, but her talk brought out fascinating themes in her show at the Turner Print Museum.

Hyde mentioned two critical pieces of backstory which shed light on her recent work.

1) Nostalgia, childhood memories, and fire

A lot of the serigraphs relate to a bad fire in her childhood home.

Her installations address that idea by presenting burning objects imbued with personal histories (she is apparently a big fan of estate sales).  Some are piled objects, while others attempt to recreate her childhood room.  That’s what the burned corner of a room is all about.  There’s another version she made by burning a partial replica of her childhood room that has a door that’s child-sized (which makes it just a little too small for adults’ comfort).   For the front of that room, she hand-printed from wood slats to create prints that imperfectly counterfeit siding.

The What Remains prints are significantly more impressive than online photos demonstrate.  Her process for these prints was to select stills from old home videos set in her old house.  She screenprinted an adhesive onto mylar, and then sprinkled some charcoal and ash onto the result.  (The charcoal and ash were produced by burning furniture).  Obviously the ash only stuck to the sections with glue.  Some of the fragments are large and faceted, which makes for a fascinating texture.  She mentioned that the grubbiness of her medium echoes the effect that the fire had on memories which predated it.

2) Memory loss

Hyde has also made a series of artworks to deal with witnessing her grandmother’s increasing dementia (and having to go through her belongings after the dementia got too pronounced to leave her grandma alone).

That’s what A Faint Echo addresses.  She feels that closets are the most private areas of a home (since even close friends would rarely see them).  She was interested in the idea that it’s an extremely private space in which we store all the things we use to cover our bodies before we go out into the world.

Turner show included a fascinating installation of prints called (De)Constructing Memory.  She suspended each print from a clothes hanger.  As a group, they transitioned from detailed to distorted to blank pages.  She produced them by a modified reductive print process (aka distressing the negatives on purpose before printing the next batch).  Most were printed in black or grey, but the occasional red prints represented unpredictable moments of clarity.

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By presenting and literally deconstructing her prints, Hyde reenacted a historical process.  Thus far I focused on the product and the juxtapositions of old and new.  Perhaps part of the artwork includes the process of searching out and choosing representative examples from a mass of medieval antecedents.

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