“Focus: Printmaking” at Greenhut is a gallery-curated survey of regional printmakers. Portland features several active print shops and the outcome of these gathering points is a robust and ambitious community. That is apparent even from the first work visible in the exhibition, Jeff Woodbury’s “Guns Like Water,” a large 14-color screen print of what appears to be six flat-wood puzzle models for guns – M16s and Uzis.
Woodbury pulls out all the stops. The reference to the wooden models comes in the form of the wood-texturing of the negative space – the 200 or so (absent) gun piece shapes are in flat silhouette. “Guns Like Water” starts out feeling like a toy reference, as if the pieces could be popped out of the whole and assembled. But, it quickly slips through your fingers (like water) into philosophically murky turf. The idea of 3D printing insidiously slips in through this old toy model style and plays the concept of print multiplicity off the idea of weapons proliferation. As well, Woodbury plays the cartoon-like legibility of toys against a societal blight in a way that refuses to come into focus. By honing his wit on the dark ironies, he maintains an effective distance from partisan positioning. The result is that, while this work is entertaining and fun, it is still unsettled and unsettling.
Moreover, “Guns Like Water” is a technically masterful print. Yet Woodbury hides his accomplishment behind a veneer of simplicity by means of camouflage codes, like the cheesy wood grain and the seam that runs across the top third of the fake and real matrices. One of Woodbury’s best-played witticisms is that he created an actual eight-part print matrix (seven separate color screens and the white screen that was printed seven times) to create a simple image of a toy model matrix, making this one of the most labor-intensive and technically nuanced works in “Focus.”
And that is saying something. Scott Schnepf’s “Fish,” for example, is a cornucopian, Dutch-style still-life engraving of fish that, if it weren’t for the rubber bands on the lobsters, could be right out of Rembrandt’s day. Susan Amons’s “Night Heron with Lotus” is a dreamily complicated monoprint of a ghosted hunting bird, gnarled tree branches, lotus plants and frog prey all echoing the swollen red punctuation of the lotus bud about to bloom. Kristin Fitzpatrick’s 50-inch monotype, wax, pencil and beeswax “Reciprocal” feels like what you would get if Jackson Pollock used a tsunami to design a city. And Steve Burt’s deliriously detailed drypoint and gouache “Moonlit Church” is a churning, blue-night tree in the woods. Read more…