An exhibition of master prints made at a legendary Lyons, Colorado shop, frolics at MCA Denver through June 28.
Printmaking is a very fine art. Whether lithography, monoprints, woodcuts, or chine collé, the act of making a print is often painstaking, detailed and precise. To get the results an artist is looking for often requires intense collaboration with a master printmaker.
Artists from around the world venture to a small printmaking studio in Lyons, Colorado to work with just such a master-Bud Shark-a printer unafraid to challenge the assumptions and limitations of printmaking. And because Shark is not only the master printer but the director of the studio, he is able to collaborate with artists and make on-the-spot decisions, from how the plate can be made to the appropriate paper.
“Shark’s Ink: The Legend of Bud Shark” was designed by former director and curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art /Denver, Cydney Payton for the Paper Works Gallery. Payton selected 82 prints by 10 artists John Buck (MT/HI), Enrique Chagoya (CA), Bernard Cohen (UK), Red Grooms (NY), Don Ed Hardy (CA/HI), Jane Hammond (NY), Robert Kushner (NY), Hung Liu (CA/China), Hollis Sigler (deceased, formerly IL), and Betty Woodman (NY/Italy). The collection on view represents a survey of works produced by these renowned artists who have worked with Shark for many years, some since the studio inception in 1976.
In the hallways outside the gallery are technically and visually innovative works by Red Grooms, the painter, sculptor, printmaker, filmmaker, and showman par excellence, including several four-color, 3D lithographs engineered and constructed at Shark’s Ink. These masterful constructions are pure brilliance. Grooms’s witty work captures elements of New York and the dominance of the hero myth in 20th-century modernism, as in lithographs showing Jackson Pollock (“Jackson in Action”, Pablo Picasso and Bill De Kooning (“De Kooning Breaks Through”) making their legendary art. Art history and its gestures and feints never looked so good. (The complex works are all put together by Shark’s longtime studio assistant Roseanne Colachis.)
“Bud is not only a masterful printer but a very knowledgeable and dedicated DJ. He has a vast collection of Rock and Roll Oldies to the newest thing. It makes time in his studio fly by in the best way,” Grooms said in the press materials for the show.
The earliest prints in the exhibition are from 1976–the year the studio opened–and were created by British painter Bernard Cohen and Shark. The two men met at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque where Cohen was a visiting artist during the 1969/70 academic year; the same year Shark earned his MFA.
Cohen’s abstract paintings use pictorial and schematic images of jet planes, animal tracks, dinner place settings and billboards to create an exhilarating dance of form and texture across the picture plane. Cohen’s work evokes the chaos, playfulness and expansiveness of our times.
Enrique Chagoya makes paintings and prints about the changing nature of culture.
“My artwork is a conceptual fusion of opposite cultural realities that I have experienced in my lifetime. I integrate diverse elements: from pre-Columbian mythology, western religious iconography and American popular culture.” Chagoya credits Shark with helping bring to light the creation prints and lithographs.
“When Bud first approached me about making a Codex I thought it would not be possible due to the difficult kind of handmade paper I use-Amate-which is very uneven in thickness and unstable. I was amazed by the ways in which he was able to do it,” Chagoya is quoted in press materials. He goes on: “Many of my paintings and drawings are born first as a print with Bud.
Chagoya’s newest prints, “Historie Naturelle des Espécies”, and “La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte II” continue his examination of cultural realities with satire and humor. With a historical lexicon of ideas, beliefs, and myths, Chagoya’s imagery combines disparate and incongruent elements. Cartoon balloons filled with bewildering and wry “artspeak” hover above character’s heads, uniting his actors in conversation. The quotes in this context become a surreal and satirical self-criticism.
In her final print project at Shark’s Ink, Hollis Sigler created a suite of four lithographs with woodcut and chine colle borders titled “Suite for the Gods.” Sigler used metaphoric images from nature and the spiritual life to confront her own mortality. The artist died of breast cancer in 2001. Using a faux naïve style, Sigler created narrative works that are intensely personal and emotionally complex featuring unpeopled rooms and landscapes filled with scattered object left behind by an unseen heroine.
And like the entire exhibit, the works created by Bud Shark and his artist friends remain with the viewer long after leaving them behind.
Top Image: Hollis Sigler, On the Edge of Hope
Bottom Images: Enrique Chagoya, The Misadventure of the Romantic Cannibals. Both courtesy of MCA Denver.