ART : Printmakers Stick to the Old Ways

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times.

As computer technology continues to be adapted to artistic pursuits and more artists start using it, some people wonder if traditional printmaking processes are a thing of the past.

But after viewing the exhibit "New Printmakers 1995," sponsored by the Los Angeles Printmaking Society at Lankershim Arts Center, it seems more likely that Old World print techniques--etching, lithography, the woodcut--will not fade away.

The juried show of almost 50 prints by college and university students throughout Southern California suggests that emerging artists will not merely exchange early art techniques for the latest ones. Rather, in their work, the Old World often meets the New.

"The images are full of imagination. It's wonderful to see all the different processes the students are using," said Donna Westerman, a printmaker, professor of art at Orange Coast College and LAPS member. She and Dan Freeman judged the show. A master printer of Freeman Editions and former LAPS president, he teaches printmaking at UCLA.

"They are pushing the boundaries with mixed media and three-dimensional images, and printing on unusual surfaces. One [print] is on glass," Westerman said, adding that the award winners reflected the beauty of the original printmaking processes. "There's still something about a well-executed black and white print with imaginative subject matter that you just can't beat."

Westerman and Freeman looked at almost 200 prints by 70 students, representing schools as far away as Palm Springs and San Diego. They decided to select no more than one print per entrant to give exposure to as many students as possible.

"Students don't have much exposure," said John Greco, a printmaking society member and printmaking teacher at Santa Monica College, who organized the show with Marilyn Elman. All entrants accepted into the show receive a one-year student membership in the printmaking society, which includes portfolio reviews and critiques. "We try to get students enrolled, to bring new blood into the printmaking society," Greco said.

Of the 10 awards presented, the top award, $500, from the Los Angeles Printmaking Society Foundation, went to Kenneth Brown Jr. for his stone lithograph and photo etching, "#4 Lexington Ave. Express." His layered vision of an urban transportation system's parts and the area surrounding the system--"urban archeology," the artist terms it--is "very sophisticated, very clean, very wonderful," Westerman said. "He is very advanced in his imagery."

The exhibit presents a diverse range of subjects. Vivian Ybarra's portrait relief print with Chine Colle, "Heritage Unspoken," speaks to the issue of ancestry inherent in one's face. John Powers' etching/aquatint, "Korea 1952: Why We Fight," questions what we fight over with depictions of the weapons and spoils of war. Lavialle Campbell's photo-litho with overlay, "1 in 8," forces us to consider the impact of breast cancer.

The wistful screen print "Papa's 70th Birthday" by Aaron Kohl quietly celebrates that milestone with an affectionate image of the man. Junko Nakayama conveys an uncomplicated joyfulness in the color woodcut "Lunch." The image of a typical fast-food meal is so appealing, it belies the cardboard quality of the food and its wrappings. Ruth Stark's linocut "Dining Room" invites viewers in for what will probably be a better meal.



What: "New Printmakers 1995."

Location: Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

Hours: 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Ends July 14.

Call: (818) 557-5760.

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