Every other year, Denver celebrates the Month of Printmaking— or Mo’Print to differentiate it from the Month of Photography that occurs in odd years. For March and some of April, hundreds of artists, galleries and museums showcase different aspects of the art of printmaking. This includes engraving on metal plates, stones, linoleum and woodcuts. To kick off the month, Art Gym Gallery curated a show titled Giant Woodcuts which quite literally displays 10 giant prints from 10 different national artists. These prints stand to impress, inspire and wow many viewers — from other printmaking artists to those unfamiliar with the process. Only on view March 1 through March 17, 2018, Giant Woodcuts is a show you won’t want to miss during Mo’Print.
Curated by Art Gym’s director of printmaking, Gregory Santos, Giant Woodcuts presents larger-than-life prints that originate from big pieces of wood the artists carve relief patterns into. After carving, the woodcut is coated with ink, covered in fabric or paper and pressed using a large printing press or other implements that exert even and consistent pressure. Some of the giant woodcuts in this exhibition and in general are pressed using a steamroller — you read that correctly, one of the slow-moving vehicles with rollers to flatten roads.
Knowing that these artists must commit months of their time to carve a design as big as the ones featured in this show is enough to palpitate any art-lovers heart. But then, adding the understanding that the artists must then figure out a way to press a piece of wood they’ve poured their soul and skill into through a machine or under a vehicle to imprint the design almost causes a heart attack. Printmaking is not an easy technique, and these giant prints at Art Gym Gallery show a level of expertise that is rare to see.
“Hopefully people get inspired by these. They are all incredible and I think I go through liking each one more than the others many times a day,” Santos admitted. With styles ranging from a nearly three-dimensional city scene to the chaotic layers of a colorful robot, the show does not adhere to a single theme. But, what it lacks in thematic incorporation, it makes up for in its ability to please most aesthetic palates. Expect to see prices from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Giant Woodcuts serves as a perfect starting-out point for experiencing Mo’Print Denver because of its location. Surrounded by the printmaking machines that Art Gym provides to its paying members, the exhibition feels less like a traditional gallery and more like an experience. There might even be artists working on various projects adjacent to you as you peruse the giant woodcuts, giving you a front-row view of the process in progress. Art Gym’s layout might impress you even more since all types of creatives work there — from metalsmiths to dancers to graphic designers.
Though none of the artists showcased in Giant Woodcuts are based in Colorado, they were happy to be included in this exhibition because it not only celebrates printmaking but also highlights the size and scale they work with. The 10 artists are James Bailey, Jamaal Barber, Lyell Castonguay, Annalise Gratovich, Holly Greenberg, Dusty Herbig, Martin Mazorra, Katie Ries, Humberto Saenz and Sean Starwars. Less than five of the artists actually use a steamroller, but the ones who do use it teach the technique at different Universities and workshops across the country. Mostly, the steamroller prints are on canvas or fabric, as it’s easier than paper to work with under extreme circumstances.
Part of the pull of creating this exhibition was in Santos’ desire to pump up excitement about the steamrolling print workshop scheduled for April 21 this year at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, during the end of Mo’Print. Anyone can show up and watch other people steamroll their woodcuts, or pitch in a helping hand to ink them and pull off the fabric when it’s all over. But, if you already practice printmaking and have never worked at that size before — or if you feel adventurous and want to carve a design — the steamroller is available for use. Price to use the equipment that day is $25, otherwise, it’s free to watch and enjoy as a bystander.
For a full list of events during Mo’Print, visit their website.