Visual Art

Dallas Sees Printmaking Resurgence this Weekend at Two Gallery Exhibitions

In the fine arts world, printmaking often gets a bad rap. Whether it's a design mass-produced on T-shirts or Andy Warhol's poppy screenprinted Marilyn Monroe heads, critiques range from "simple" to "unoriginal." Yet much of the art form of printmaking -- both the process and the history -- has fallen into obscurity. This weekend, the process is explored in art shows at both Red Arrow Contemporary and The Basement Gallery.

Today, printmaking has become synonymous with the screen printing technique. Negative images are created using light-sensitive emulsions on a tightly woven screen allowing for positive images to be printed on just about any flat surface. But other printmaking processes -- the older, more complex ones, such as wood carving and etching -- are ignored.

"I think that a lot of areas are overlooked while other areas are flourishing," says Elissa Stafford, co-director of Red Arrow Contemporary, which hosts Stay Up All Nite Saturday at 6 p.m., an exhibition of the screen printed works of the Austin art outfit Industry Wrecking Crew.

If you ask Raymond Butler about printmaking, the first thing he'll do is crack open his wallet and pull out a dollar bill. Butler curated a show that will go on display Saturday at the Basement Gallery featuring various printmaking works.

"People don't realize it's a thing they use every day," he says, pointing at the intricate line work around the bills border. "But it's a form of printmaking that's used to make it. There's so much going on. There are so many different shadings and drawing techniques, hatching and crosshatching and gradients."

Despite the intricacies of carving negative images into materials and printing them, the growing printmaking technique is undoubtedly screen printing. Whether that's attributed to the ease of mass production or the appeal of the designs, Stafford agrees, saying, "Screen printing is one of the areas in print that is thriving."

Butler see's a public resistance to screen printing as a fine art, though. "People don't know that screen printing is a way to create art as well as T-shirts," Butler says. "People, when they hear print, they hear 'reproduction.' They don't think the print making method is a way of creating art. These aren't reproductions of works that have been done before, these are the works that are created."

But it appears as if both Red Arrow and the Basement Gallery are actively trying to change this perception of printmaking. As serendipitous as it seems, both galleries host printmaking affairs at the same time.

Maybe it's blind chance, or maybe printmaking is ready to make some serious headway in Dallas. After all, the landscape seems ripe for it -- while the city is making a push for hyper-contemporary art maybe a counterbalance of design-oriented art is just what the scene needs. Maybe, as Butler is trying to do, art appreciators just need to see the process of print making in front of them to understand that this isn't a process just for mass production or kitschy T-shirt designs.

Whatever the reasons, both of these shows promise to be entirely original and impressive affairs. And, perhaps, we'll see more of their ilk in the future.

The opening reception for Red Arrow Contemporary's Stay Up All Nite takes place from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, entry is free; Real Print Sh*t opens with a party at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Basement Gallery, entry is $10.

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Scott Mitchell
Contact: Scott Mitchell