“Do You Copy?” at Missouri Western State University’s Potter Gallery of Art features the art of 35 local, national and international artists whose work explores printmaking, photography and other reproductive mediums.
The exhibition is curated by The Hand Magazine editors Adam Finkelston and James Meara; issue No. 7 of the mag features the same artists and works.
The exhibition is joined together mostly by shared mediums and not shared themes, but many of the artists push the boundaries of reproductive mediums in interesting ways.
Daniel Coburn’s “Madonna of the Window” is a mixed-media, black-and-white photograph on salted paper that depicts a young woman in a white gown standing, holding a spear upright against her body and a window frame against her legs.
The spear and window frame have been painted in solid neon yellows, greens and pinks. The woman’s mouth is distorted, obscured with large solid gray squares, as if it has been pixelated by a computer. The image reflects classical and modern motifs, and the woman appears like a Greek goddess or Christian saint, but with 21st century effects in her Day-glo-colored props and digitized mouth.
Shane Balkowitsch’s “Marat” is a wet plate collodion photograph that re-creates a detail from Jacques-Louis David’s iconic neoclassical painting “The Death of Marat.” Just as in the original painting, depicting the dead French revolutionary Marat, a man’s head hangs limp on the rim of a bathtub. While a staged photo of some unknown victim of violence might cause disgust, Balkowitsch has chosen an image that is so iconic it no longer shocks us.
Robert Thompson’s “Maybe Yes” is a mixed-media work of acrylic paint on top of a secondhand framed lithograph. The original lithograph depicts a quaint, colorful scene of a small house beside a pond, a dog on the beach in the foreground and a background of trees in a meadow.
Thompson has painted on top of this image, adding the words “Maybe” and “Yes” in large, 3-D block lettering. With the intrusion of the 3-D text, reminiscent of a computer program, into the picturesque scene, Thompson has joined two equally artificial worlds.
Melanie Walker’s “Head of the House” is a cliche-verre negative with selective toning that depicts a man in a suit, holding a newspaper clasped between his hands, while his head has been replaced with a small house with a gable roof.
The toning process on the image has distorted the background, inverting lights and darks, creating a spooky, surreal mood. It is hard not to think of Rene Magritte’s iconic works in which a man in a suit and bowler hat has his face obscured by a green apple.
One of the most interesting and ambitious works is Sean Culver’s “Panorama Series: Island,” which consists of three small shadow boxes. The central box contains a gilded, mercurial daguerreotype, a photo printed on gold-colored metal. The image appears to show a small island with a tower on it.
In the shadow box to the right, we see notes and sketches of the photograph, and the shadow box to the left holds modern photographs showing us that the island and tower are nothing more than a small model, no more than a few inches long.
Culver’s model is impressive: The metal photo could easily slip into a museum or historical archive and fool most viewers into thinking it is a genuine antique depicting a genuine island.
Other noteworthyworks include Christopher Schneberger’s manipulated photo, “The Grahams at Dinner”; Michelle Rostic’s “Tidelands,” in which photos printed on canvas have been stretched around rocks; Nicholas Naughton’s “Flash Point,” a politically charged screen print bearing the words “No Indictment”; and Troy Colby’s “The Journey of Dreaming,” a photograph of a nude boy in an eerie forest.
As an exhibition, “Do You Copy?” offers a wide variety of subjects and mediums. The show bills itself as “An Exhibition of Reproducible Art,” and while most works do indeed reproduce nicely in the printed magazine, many works, including Culver’s “Panorama Series: Island,” Balkowitsch’s “Marat” and Rostic’s “Tidelands,” are definitely worth seeing in person.
“Do You Copy?” continues at the Potter Art Gallery at Missouri Western State University, 4525 Downs Drive, St. Joseph, through Feb. 15. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information at 816-271-4282 or missouriwestern.edu/art.