The holiday season is here, or will be shortly, and most of us will gather with our loved ones, friends and family to celebrate our various beliefs and the beginning of a new year. These get-togethers usually involve presents and gift giving and finding that something special for another person I’ve found to be quite fun and sometimes challenging. So this week I’ll be featuring two Chicago art galleries that are perfect for finding affordable, good art for the holidays: the Chicago Printmaker’s Collaborative and Rotofugi Gallery and Toy Store.
I have previously talked with the director of the Chicago Printmaker’s Collaborative (CPC), Deborah Maris Lader, about the history of the gallery and its program and goals, but now is a good time to look at the gallery itself and the art. On display is the 19th Annual International Small Print Show, a collection of artists associated with the gallery. There were extended hours for the holidays, but if you plan to visit this week, due to the holidays, you might want to phone ahead and make sure they are open (773-293-2070).
Before I get to the art, visiting the CPC is a good place for a non-visual art gift also. There are handmade notebooks and cards, as well as various artist-made t-shirts. The CPC has smocks sporting their logo, good for your splatter-prone artist or cook. All of this is laid out and surrounds several large presses, the machinery that makes most of the art possible. In this way, the gallery also serves an educational function, showing people the process and tools that make prints. Aside from the material items available, one can also take classes at the CPC or purchase classes for another.
The 19th Annual International Small Print Show covers the entire perimeter of the gallery, from the front to the corridors in the back were the artist studios are (don’t be afraid to go up the stairs, it’s allowed and there is more work back there). So as one will see, there is a lot of work on view by a lot of artists. The prints are clearly priced and this show is especially affordable. Be careful though, if you see something you think you may like ask someone to take it down for you and hold it while you make your decision. I’ve come close to someone else walking away with work I was interested in several times.
Several examples of artwork in the 19th Annual Small Print Show. Courtesy of CPC.
With so much work on display by so many artists, visitors will inevitably find certain works and certain artists that they like more than others. Standing out in a salon-style show usually favors artists with strong visual styles and this exhibition is no exception.
Hiroshi Ariyama creates strongly composed, photograph-based prints of Chicago that utilize a bright palette. He has great images of the Sears Tower, the buildings along Chicago River, and relevantly to North Side-sited CPC, images of a northbound El-Train winding its way along the track. Their strength is in their composition and photographic sensibility and with that they beat the usual Chicago posters easily. Hopefully, they'll even replace a few.
Megan Sterling is another one of the standout artists on display. Her various works depict animals and the natural world more and less abstractly. There are elements of tenderness in her work and also vulnerability, leading to the feeling that these animals may be stand-ins for human beings.
Scott Kiefer creates detailed yet intimate and small-scale prints. His work unexpectedly called to mind works by Whistler, particularly the seascapes. Rarely is a traditional subject done this well. Yue Chen also addresses a traditional subject: Eastern calligraphy. In several pieces Chen combines gestural ink painting with Western printmaking techniques. The results are a compelling synthesis.
These four artists are only a few of the many on display, and the works on view do rotate as prints are bought and sold. There are many reasons to visit the CPC and buying artwork and supporting local and emerging artists is a very good one also.