Founded in 1999 and currently occupying a walkup space in the Community School of Music and Arts building downtown, The Ink Shop Printmaking Center is a mainstay of Ithaca’s visual arts. A member-run independent print studio, the shop also hosts public classes and exhibitions. Although limited by their cramped, multi-use space, their curating is professional and ambitious. Shows dedicated to local printmakers alternate with others featuring national and even international figures—a testament to their hard work as well as the distinctive accessibility of the print medium.
Local group shows tend to be, even at their best, more edifying than revelatory. While presentations featuring non-local artists promise a welcome injection of novelty and single-person ones a chance for focused meditation, these staples tend to pull less weight. Still the Shop’s “2019 Member Exhibit” (through Aug. 23) is a modest highlight of late summer.
Founding member and Ithaca College instructor Pamela Drix alternates between her specialty of woodcut and a more wide-ranging, often unorthodox, approach to both print and non-print media. She also oscillates between an unabashed lyricism and a more questioning approach shaped by her interests in regional politics and history.
Elegantly “floating” in white box-frames, her two groupings of woodcut “Orchids” here take the more contemplative, less confrontational route. Pushing a signature image into layered abstraction, Drix’s color sensibility is constrained but plangent: off-white paper overlain with amber, yellow-brown, crimson, black, and aquatic green inks. A coating of encaustic (wax) gives her sheets a solid, tangible feeling, as if they were tablets.
Jenny Pope takes a similar approach with her reduction woodcuts. With “All Over Corn 1” and “2” her playful expressionism and ecological narrative mutate into dream-like amorphousness. Subtle greens and grays announce a departure from her traditionally shouty colors.
Two encaustic monotypes by Leslie Ford, “The Deep 5” and “6,” pulse hypnotically. Concentrated by her small square format, grids of circles flicker with noctilucent colors against abyssal darks.
Most members are showing work done in familiar veins. Craig Mains’ stencil monotypes “Cohabitation II” and “III” combine characteristically louche subject matter—silhouetted dinosaurs, volcanoes, construction vehicles—with daring color and fragmentation. Kumi Korf’s mixed-technique intaglio prints “Green Modernist Crossing Orange” and “Letters in New York Purple” are, in contrast, chromatically subtle, layered calligraphic abstractions.
Dedicated to the memory of the late Peter Kahn—printmaker, polymath, and Cornellian—the Shop’s annual Kahn Family Fellowship provides “emerging” artists with a unique opportunity to develop a body of prints. (The deadline for the upcoming fellowship is Aug. 30; see www.ink-shop.org for details.)
Jari Poulin, a well-known commercial portrait photographer, has taken a more self-consciously artistic turn in her recently exhibited figural work. “The Scent of Spring” comes from her “Senses In Animate” series. Printed using her signature polymer photogravure technique, it has a rich powdery blue-gray to black tonality. Blurred, overlapping multiple exposures lend a feeling of tense animation to the upper body portrait: a young woman in a dark, dotted dress, holding a flower stalk, her arms elaborately tattooed.
Perhaps it’s due to a sensibility weaned on drawing and painting, but the digitally manipulated photography of Rebecca Godin has never struck me as appealing in its color or texture. Printed on vinyl and canvas (the latter, rarely a good idea) her three pieces here would likely work better without the special effects. But Fred Madden’s “Above the Cinque Terre” puts such effects to good use—imposing a sense of irreality on a concrete treescape.
This members’ exhibit fits a respectable range of most-often compelling art into what feels increasingly like a constricted gallery space. The best work is characterized by a depth of sensual and metaphorically evocative content.