Black & White & Color exhibit at Gallery Saint John
By Benjamin Smith
While the next couple of months are synonymous with holiday color and cheer, they can also conjure up financial stress, family discord, epic lethargy and dismal weather. Daytonians looking for some free peace and quiet – not to mention beauty and inspiration – should explore Gallery Saint John and soak in Black & White & Color, a new exhibit running through Sunday, Dec. 1.
“This present show features relief prints,” explained Brother Joe Barrish, an artist and member of the Society of Mary who has been the gallery’s coordinator for 10 years. (Gallery Saint John is a “not-for-profit endeavor” of the Marianists.) “These types of prints are made by inking a face carved from wood or linoleum, and allowing only the raised parts of the surface to accept ink. Then a sheet of paper is placed on the design. Afterward, the paper is burnished with a smooth tool and an inked image is carefully pulled from the relief.”
According to Barrish, the relief print “is probably the oldest of the graphic media,” its roots stretching back to China during the second century B.C.
“Relief prints offer the artist a comparatively easy and economical way of producing multiple images,” Barrish explained. “I particularly enjoy the bold and easy chiaroscuro [contrast of light and dark] effects realizable through the medium. I am still impressed by the power of black ink on white paper.”
And it was this “power” which gave the exhibit its name.
“It seemed appropriate, since most of the relief prints in this exhibition are black and white,” Barrish said. “In fact, until comparatively recently, most relief prints were rendered in black ink on white paper. In the exhibit, though, there are a number of color prints included. These represent the fine craft of selecting appropriate colors that nuance with each other – that complement each other – and help communicate the meaning of the print. Because colors must be carefully placed on the surface, registering color is very important. The works in this exhibit attest to that skill.”
Although Barrish himself created some of the 40-odd prints, others were created by members of Dayton Printmakers Cooperative.
“The gallery staff determined it would be interesting to involve the many talented graphic artists in the Dayton area who are printmakers,” Barrish said. “This is the first gallery event specifically featuring work from the Dayton Printmakers Cooperative [DPC]. We consider this display of local talent as a real educational outreach. … [We wanted] to provide a venue for practicing printmakers and to give the interested public an opportunity to see the work, enjoy learning more about the relief print process and meet the artists.”
So does the gallery coordinator have any favorite DPC prints at the exhibit?
“To say I have several favorites from the show can be dangerous!” Barrish admitted. “I would not want to single out any particular works. I did have an opportunity, though, to meet with some of the printmakers and to briefly discuss their works with them. Micah Zavacky – a senior at Wright State University whose color prints show considerable skill – spoke about his ‘Off the Deck and the Street Below,’ which is a color print done with the reduction method. This method is one in which the design is carefully planned, and then the printmaker cuts away parts he wishes to print in a single color. Then he proceeds to cut away more of the block and until each color is printed. When the printmaker completes his work, he has a series of prints, but the block has been completely used in the process. Therefore, the printmaker cannot make additional copies. He must plan ahead on how many copies he wants and proceed accordingly. The black and white prints by Matthew Fritz and Shannon Grecula, among many others, raise prosaic subject matter – such as a city street a still life – to a level of fine design.”
Barrish’s own relief prints are inspired by a certain famous work.
“Over the years, I have learned to appreciate the Bible,” Barrish said. “I find in it much for personal reflection and appreciation. The personalities of the muscular Samson and the simple peasant Amos, for example, come alive in the descriptive passages found in scripture. Hence, I’ve included my prints of some of these very interesting – and sometimes very controversial – characters.”
Black & White & Color runs through Sunday, Dec. 1 at Gallery Saint John, 4400 Shakertown Road. Admission is free. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m, Wednesday through Sunday or by appointment. For more information, please call 937.320.5405 or visit dayton-gallery-saintjohn.org. For more information about the Dayton Printmakers Cooperative, please call 937.228.2588, or visit thedaytonprintmakers.com. Those interested in learning more about the medium are invited to attend Getting Started, a free relief print workshop on Sunday, Nov. 17. For reservations, call the gallery at 937.320.5405. There will also be an Artists’ Reception on Sunday, Dec. 1 from 2–4 p.m.