I was drawn to these woodcuts by a fellow Philadelphia printmaker because certain ideas for and about landscapes that have been rolling around in my head. For nearly two years now I've been thinking about making landscape woodcuts, but the closest I've actually come is in the work for my Dancing in the Garden series which depicts children in movement at the Morris Arboretum. When it comes to making an image of or at least inspired by just the view of the land, I can't seem to move past foggy concept and into the area of solid imagery.
I've often felt as if one of the mental blocks has to do with living in the city, since I don't really have a desire to make cityscapes, but that is the sort of scenery I'm mostly exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, much of my longing to make landscapes may very well be connected to the further alienation from wilderness that I feel the longer I live in the city and merely visit wild places during carefully planned and "educational" excursions usually with my two young children.
I first noticed Imperiale's woodcuts a couple years ago, but recently felt compelled to look again and I felt a deeper connection particularly to these three cityscapes. They all strike me referencing the natural world. The first, Blue Fade, is even from a series that directly references a natural environment: Urban Ocean. Certainly it is blue and the layers of tightly clustered structures read somewhat like waves. However, the actual solid stillness of the city in contrast to moving waters is asserted by the multitude of congruent vertical lines, found not only in the shapes of most of the buildings, but even in the texture of the block they were printed from.
The second woodcut is View From Girard. While similar in style, this image is much more loose in movement, even musical. It is also more specific in both title and imagery. I am personally well acquainted with Girard Avenue in Philadelphia, working for the Wagner Free Institute for Science and having had many teaching gigs in that part of the city. Knowing the area, I feel this captures quite a bit of its personality. There is a bit of grittiness, many sharp edges, but there is also something energetic and a rather organic flow to the backdrop. It is a place where people really live and work.
The final woodcut, Sacre Coeur, transports us far from Philadelphia to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris. This image returns to the quiet and stillness of the first, but constructed completely differently, with the more organic and specific buildings clustered together in a way which points toward the massive central structure of the church. It dwarfs the rest of the humble, grey structures. The flat strip of grey across the horizon serves two purposes. First, it provides a darker value against which the church - white and boldly outlined in black - can pop out. But secondly, it keeps mankind's structure, regardless of how impressive and heavenly-inspired, ultimately grounded to the earth by providing a ceiling beyond which the church does not rise.
I hope I can eventually get to a point where I make some landscape woodcuts. These three serve as some wonderfully contemporary inspiration.