Review: Chroma Projects’ One/Off Richmond Printmakers

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There’s something for everybody at Chroma Projects’ “One/Off Richmond Printmakers.” Whether your bag is technical ability, or work that throws technical restraint to the wind, the 13-artist show has both, with some real stunners in the mix.

Janet DeCover’s “Baru,” from “One/Off Richmond Printmakers,” up through December at Chroma Projects. Image courtesy Chroma Projects.

Beckoning from the window are two sumptuous color field monotypes by Janet DeCover. Basically, they’re paintings done on a surface in reverse that are subsequently applied to paper. The rich color saturation of DeCover’s work is immensely satisfying, and thanks to the thickly applied paint, her pieces have surprisingly weighty surfaces. Dennis Winston’s emotionally charged series of trees features boldly rendered trunks and branches—these are arbors with attitude. Winston sets them against backgrounds of wood grain, which is a nice graphic touch, and the grain is rendered in lovely, subtle hues that add a dash of levity and serve to highlight the trees’ silhouettes. There are a number of other artists in the show who look to nature for inspiration, and though they’re all technically impressive, Kris Iden’s “Herbaria: Locus 93” showcases compositional juxtapositions that are particularly moving.

Within the main gallery space, a number of prints are quick to draw in the viewer, and they all share a similar primitive character. Jack Glover’s work almost looks like it could have been done by an outsider artist, but there’s a raw crudeness about it that imbues it with power. Working with old newspaper stories, Glover recreates them including text (which since they’re prints, is all done backwards). He chooses stories that focus on ordinary citizens and small-town life, and with slight editing succeeds in creating a quirky, timeless and poignant version of reality. The saints that compose Mary Holland’s “Pyramid of Saints” are rendered in a similarly unpretentious way. Stripped down to the basics, Holland’s stylized figures have a remarkable strength and genuineness. In the same vein, Patricia Martin-Nelson’s earthy “Bag Lady” recalls the work of illustrator R. Crumb, with the added punch of distinctly contemporary composition.

In the Passage Gallery is Tim Michel’s series of prints, “Over the Wall.” A successful Realtor by day, Michel has produced an impressive array of both abstract and landscape work on the side, and the latter, which are beautifully hand-colored, are particularly strong. Michel  has a feel for what deserves focus, often reducing landscapes to a section of brook or corner of sky. Anyone who has lain out on a summer night looking up at shooting stars can appreciate his rendering of perspective. One only wishes that, with his landscapes, Michel used frames that showcased the real quality of his work.

Hanging in the Black Box are Jim Henry’s dark “Nocturnes,” commanding paintings that almost look like they were painted with tar. The way Henry manipulates paint allows potent glimpses of color to peek through, forceful Franz Kline-like slashes in one and luscious Francis Bacon daubs in another. Situated near Henry’s pieces are Gary Keyes’ “Objects of Wonder.” The objects themselves are marvels, resembling Origami confections made out of fabric, but Keyes showcased them in digital prints. His creations are interesting enough that their absence makes one feel a little gypped, but this is a small quibble. There’s plenty to satisfy this month at Chroma, from printmakers who would be worth a trip to Richmond to see again.

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