|Boy In the City, Edward Palmer|
What is impressive about this exhibition of fine art prints alone is that while a wide variety of styles and artists from varied backgrounds is represented, the common theme of a specific era in the United States comes across. Although I didn't feature them here because they were not woodcuts, my two favorite pieces from the exhibition were an intensely humanizing mezzotint portrait by Dox Thrash, and a colorful engraving of musicians by Hilda Husik.
Before seeing the works face to face, I was a little worried that I'd encounter images of melodrama and idealized Americana. Some of the prints in the show, at a quick glance, seem as if they could be that. But under closer inspection I saw that through nuance and artful (and often experimental) methods, each artist managed to convey a deep sense of humanity. (Okay, except Thomas Hart Benson's works - I hate that guy's work. It all seems just pretty, but heartless. Maybe I'm missing something.) Taken as a whole, I interpreted certain consistent messages: hope and a sort of quiet endurance as people faced great difficulties, the various associations (both noble and devastating) of hard, physical labor in both rural and urban settings, and an ultimately vibrant human spirit against the backdrop of rapid and monumental change.
|Coal Mining, David Burke|
*It was brought to my attention that what I thought was a toy elephant in the bag in the bottom righthand corner of Palmer's Boy In The City, might actually be a scrawny cat crawling into a bag of food. When I looked at the image again, it now seems obvious - mainly based on the context of the image - that it is indeed a stray cat, and not a toy. (This edit was added on 3/31/14.)
My favorite woodcut in the show was David Burke's Coal Mining. The eerie and threatening nature of working underground is conveyed through an unexpected combination of dark hues and slanted beams which seem poised to collapse. The two miners are simple and stylized, yet their gestures are animated. While everything else seems barely scratched into existence, they bulge out and are glowing with heat and movement.
|Woodbine, Ernest Watson|
With these three woodcuts alone, I feel I've showcased some of the wide variety of artistic styles featured in the exhibition.
Learn more about the exhibition from the press release. Better yet, if you get a chance, visit the museum (free admission!) Mondays-Fridays, 10am-4pm. And if you can't get to the show but want to have an intimate viewing experience with the works in this show, La Salle has published an exhibition catalog for sale on lulu.