Saturday, August 2, 2008

David Poolman, The Nauvoo Suite & Slawomir Grabowy, Self-Portrait 60 and 35, SNAP, July 24 - Sept 6, 2008, REVIEWED BY MANDY ESPEZEL

The show currently up in SNAP’s main gallery space is a combined exhibition which features the images of printmakers David Poolman and Slawomir Grabowy. The artists work with a similar aesthetic, but the bodies of work were created and remain completely separate. Poolman is exhibiting a series of prints based on themes of youthful rebellion and violence in the form of arson. Grabowy’s work is much less concrete in its source, but has a definite connection to the act of repetition in mark making, and how pictures are formed through material means. It was at first challenging to see a connection between these two series that was not obvious (both artists use black ink on white paper and have quite graphic styles, hard edged with little tonal variation). Considering their work separately helps to illuminate why they are shown together.

David Poolman 'deader' 6 archival inkjet prints on stonehenge, 22 x 40 cm, 2006

Poolman has on display what feels like two bodies of work. A vertical wall displays the series Deader, which consists of six Inkjet prints that each show a head of hair at a slightly larger-than-life scale, minus the heads. We see the intricate patterns of hair in shapes free floating on white paper, which weaves between existing as positive and negative space. It becomes the face, the mouth, a neck. They look like abandoned wigs that have been discarded for being out of date. Next to this is The Burning of the Nauvoo Temple, a series of woodcut prints that are much more abstracted and generalized. They have a gritty feel, like really old pixilation.

David Poolman, 'the burning of the nauvoo temple', 9 woodcuts in stonehenge, 22 x 30 cm, 2006

In the summary for the show, Poolman explains how he interprets arson as a symbol of unrest and dissent. The black and white forms in these prints are vaguely descriptive, reading as dramatically simplified landscapes, or buildings. The lack of detail creates an unsettling sense of visual destruction, as if the formally clear picture has been degraded to this point of obscurity. The connection between Poolman’s ‘hair’ pieces and the Nauvoo Temple work is unexplained, but they do seem to have some sort of relationship; perhaps it’s referring to the importance youth place on hair styles, contrasted with the desire to rebel against such shallow expression in violent and destructive ways.

Where Poolman works within a destruction-becomes-image context, Grabowy uses mark making as a kind of personal record. Self-portrait 60 and 35 is the title of his show, which consists of mostly geometric and organically shaped forms, carved from linocuts.

Slawomir Grabowy 'My 3rd Kopiec' linocut, 49 x 73 cm, 2008

There is a strong coloration between Grabowy’s prints and the infamous ‘Op-Art’ of earlier generations. Patterns of stripes and diagonal lines with shifting line weights create an optical effect of movement and volume. To Grabowy, the act of cutting into a surface becomes a record of time. No attempt is made to refer to anything explicitly figurative or representational, other than geometrical shapes. Lines of flat black ink vibrate on the surface, with the white paper serving as both ground and form, activating the space between each individual mark. This work is extremely formal in execution, and maintains a conceptual emphasis on personal expression through the use of material. Which is perhaps the connection between the work of these artists. Both use very simple shapes, consisting of black marks, to formulate pictures that balance between describing an image, and allowing the image to remain un-defined. This ambiguity is pursued in the actual physical creation of the print, and in their individual motivations of why they make images. The two exhibitions could be easily simplified based on their visual similarities, but the contrasts between the bodies of work provide for some multifaceted interpretations.

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