Curated by Kala Art Institute’s Mayumi Hamanaka, Approaching Zero – At the Frontier of Contemporary Printmaking includes print-based work that takes a variety of approaches to the traditional medium by artists from around the world: Miguel A. Aragón from Mexico but currently residing in the United States, New York based artist Stella Ebner, Zarina Hashmi from India and living in the United States, Canadian artist Walter Jule, and Japanese artists Kouseki Ono and Katsutoshi Yuasa. Approaching Zero is presented in conjunction with the 42nd Southern Graphics Council International printmaking conference held this year in San Francisco Bay Area March 26-30. The theme of this year’s SGCI printmaking, “Bridges – Spanning Tradition, Innovation, and Activism,” resonates loudly within the group show at Kala — the exhibition makes a marked point to present artists from around the globe who cultivate a visualization of artistic cross-cultural exchange, and also incorporate these concepts of hybridization relevant to their personal lives to their approach of the print medium itself.
Images from Miguel Aragón’s “White Juarez” series incorporating embossed printmaking and laser-cut images that leave burnt residue perimeters are extracted from newspaper photographs of horrendous murders that occurred in his hometown of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a major battleground in the Mexican drug cartel war. Aragon comments upon the cross-cultural impact of these devastating conflict by playing with the intention of the burning of paper: both “burned” into the consciousness of the citizens of the Mexican city, he says “leaving unwanted memories though the continuous first hand exposure to these massacres,” and perhaps even further, these figures are removed and hidden from the view of the prints’ American audiences who are not aware from whence these images are derived, and the violence ensuing from their addictions.
Through series like “Cities I Called Home” and “Travels with Rani,” Zarina Hashmi’s work is founded upon her personal experiences of living out of her home country and the journey to find a space for respite, or a place to call home. Born in Aligarh, India unto a Muslim family, conditions “made it impossible to remain any longer…” after the partition of 1947. Unable to return to her childhood home and not “at home” in Pakistan where she later lived, Hashmi lived in Germany, France, and Japan before settling in the United States. Although well-known as a printmaker, Hashmi also stresses her work should also be recognized as a notion of sculpture as well because her practice includes carving blocks of wood to manifest the image. She has used various techniques within printmaking including intaglio, woodcuts, lithography and silkscreen to reference an array of concepts, all of which reflect upon diaspora, home, and memory.
“My woodcut print and relief work are based on my own digital photographs,” says Japanese artist, Katsutoshi Yuasa. Not only does he seamlessly blend mediums, he also blends traditional and modern processes. “While woodcut is a very traditional Japanese printmaking technique that is a long process of production and all carving and printing all by a hand, I think there contains many interesting questions regarding the origin of photography.” Yuasa, who earned his master’s in printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London and has toured and had residences extensively throughout Europe, creates large-scale monochrome woodcut prints by digitally processing photograph images and transferring it onto the wood panel, and hand carves the image. “I would like to grasp the light to plywood by a hand instead of exposing the film.”
“Approaching Zero: At the Frontier of Contemporary Printmaking” will be at Kala Art Gallery 2990 San Pablo Ave through April 4.