The pairing of prints by Katie Baldwin and Edna Andrade at the Print Center — two lovely shows I saw last week while in Center City — caused me to think about labor. Not that these two artists’ works conjure up sweat-filled studios with artists fainting from exhaustion. But both artists make highly refined and beautifully controlled works, works that seem effortless in their making, although the longer you look, the more you understand the hours that went in to making the lines perfect and the registration just so.
Baldwin’s series of woodcut prints delivers realism-and surrealism-based landscapes and interiors based on her recent travel to Japan and to a residency in upstate New York at the Wells Book Arts Center (where the prints were made). In colors that are beautiful — albeit dark and somber (blues, teals, browns and blacks predominate) — Baldwin portrays mountains, rivers, bridges and people who appear to be traveling or mapping out a journey. In several works, the characters reveal thoughts in words that have been letterpress printed onto the print. One such story print includes a father and a daughter (the other is about a mother and daughter). Both stories involve issues of labor, and they are both rather curiously downbeat, with the parental figure seeming to control and dictate to the daughter. The stories and images, while serene in their telling, belie something dark and almost Dickensian.
Curator John Caperton told me that Baldwin cast the lead type for the letterpress words in the prints, something that takes the whole text enterprise to a place where people like William Blake and Virginia Wolfe lived — with printing presses, poetry and imagery. Check out the artist’s blog for her own decidedly more upbeat ruminations, including some on her process and work.
While at first blush you would not necessarily think to compare Edna Andrade’s snappy and exuberant works in brilliant color with Baldwin’s somber prints, the spirit of the artists — the clear love of making things and taking pains to do so — brings them together. Andrade’s prints from the 1960s through the 1980s are elegant, playful, and filled with the assertion of hours spent in their creation. Caperton added another outstanding bit of labor intensiveness with wallpaper designed by ANONA Studio, that was created from repeat patterns of Andrade’s. The artist’s work looks spectacular, whether it’s sitting on top of the wallpaper, or vibrating all by itself on the white gallery walls.
These smartly-paired exhibits are at the Print Center to Nov. 17. Highly recommended.