Masterly Prints – Bud Shark

Bud Shark’s amazing collaborations at Wright State

Since 1976, a fabled but little known phenomenon in the art world is the work of master printer/director Bud Shark, particularly his “Shark’s Ink” workshop and collaboration with over 19 innovative contemporary American artists. Reminiscent of the great French print workshops of the 20th century, rendering editions of now immortal major artists, Shark is one of the few publishers where the master printer and director is the same person, working directly with the artist on every aspect of the print process.

A rare look at the extent of the “Shark’s Ink” collaborations is currently on view through Sunday, May 2 at the Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries at Wright State University. The range of techniques demonstrated in Shark’s vocabulary is a detailed lexicon for anyone interested in its vast scope, from lithography and embossing to monotype, collage and three-dimensional creations.

The latter 3-D prints are particularly striking in Shark’s realizations of the visions of veteran Pop artist Red Grooms. Groom’s color 3-D lithograph “Ruckus Tugboat” (2006) is one of the works greeting the viewer in the gallery entrance. Featuring dimensionally swirling smoke, the image involves a sailor ready to toss a life preserver to a man in the blue and white waved water, the swimming shark, and the seagull on a floating buoy. Equally amazing is the “Jackson in Action” (1997) portrayal of a multi-armed Jackson Pollock throwing paint in the air, perennial cigarettes in two heads, surrounded by articulated paint and enamel cans, with wife Lee Krasner looking in from outside and photographer/friend Rudy Burkhardt snapping pictures from a low stepladder.

The Pollock/Grooms piece was printed on flat sheets of paper folded into 3-D with a second sheet as background. “Red makes a maquette in the studio with scissors and watercolor,” noted Shark, “and then it is analyzed, and part is cut out that the artist signs, which also has the edition number.” The “Tugboat” has very straight lines, and the one shown here is a trial proof. Hanging near the “Tugboat” is a very cartoonish “Self Portrait with Haircut” (2003) by Peter Saul, a color lithographic predicated on the absurd conviction that “Art Critics Did This to Me.”

“All the artists are referred to me,” said Shark, “and in most cases I met them somehow, was drawn to their work because of its difference, and was curious to see how it would translate. How to do that work in print, as something that can only be done in print… to discover what technique can be used.” He might use aluminum plates, some light sensitive which softens the coating which remains on every dot and can be used for printing, or Mylar which is destroyed after the print is made.

Robert Kushner’s “Nahe Nahe II” (2002), a color lithograph with woodcut and gold leaf, was a collaboration with a pattern/decoration artist from Holly Solomon’s Gallery. An extra color was added at the artist’s impetus after several prints from the edition had already been sold of this extravagant and elegant super-floral piece. Its neighboring piece, “Mirror X 4 #1” by Bernard Cohen (2008), was one of the first contract prints made when the studio opened, using extensive Mylar plates to create multilevel grids and patterns, where the color was picked after three months of working on the Mylar.

In John Buck’s color woodcut “Phoenix Rising” (2006), Shark noted the image was composed of several wood blocks pieced together, where the print was peeled back and overprinted, and the Dodo bird has two blocks for the feet and background work. “My Heavens!” (2004) by Jane Hammond combines color lithograph and collage, where images are collected from matchbooks to make star maps and constellations, connecting dots in the sky and creating the night sky in Photoshop for the dark blue ground. The same paper was used by Mayans for their codices.

“Las Abuertas, Los Organos que Esperan” (2005) is a color lithograph diptych with cutouts by Ana Maria Hernando, who collected crochet petticoats and printed on both sides of the paper that diffuses and softens the color, producing mirror images and referencing Mexican cutout art. Barbara Takenaga produced “Shaker Blue” (2004) with its Mandalic psychedelic swirls using color lithograph, silkscreen and hand coloring. The progress of printing is demonstrated by a series of lithographic plates in magenta, blue, yellow, orange and black, each an intriguing work in itself.

Other outstanding prints include the humorous “Dogman and Indian” (2006) and “Ode to Rin Tin Tin” (2002), both in fantastic hand-painted frames; the coloristic linear landscape of a winged victory in “Being on the Edge of Hope, Each Day Brings Us Closer to Victory” (1997) by Hollis Sigler; the caricatured historic panels of Enrique Chagoya’s “Double Trouble or Anthropology of the Clone” and “The Ghost of Liberty” (both 2004); and the abstracted triumvirate of vases in anthropomorphic containers by Betty Woodman in her color woodcut, pochoir (color applied through a stencil) and chine collé “The Ming Sisters” (2004).

The Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries are located in the Creative Arts Center on the campus of Wright State University, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Fairborn. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, and 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit www.wright.edu/artgalleries

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