Hot off the Presses
Master printer Bud Shark has been making prints in and around Boulder for a long time since he first established his fine-art press, Shark's Inc., in the 1970s. Bill Havu, director of his namesake William Havu Gallery, has been around for a long time as well, selling fine prints in Denver since the mid-1980s. So it's odd, considering how small the Colorado art world is, that the two hadn't worked together until a couple of months ago.
Havu is now Shark's retail representative in Denver. Thus the many prints pulled at Shark's, which before were only occasionally seen in Denver and have never all been available for sale at a single venue, can now be viewed and bought at the same local gallery. To herald the arrangement, Havu has mounted a stupendous grab-bag of a show that fills the center spaces and the galleries located beneath and on the mezzanine. Select Prints: Shark's Inc. includes works by a cavalcade of big-time art stars who have had prints made in Colorado, and it's riveting.
Born in North Dakota, Shark first became interested in printmaking as a teenager in the 1960s, when he learned about the lithographs of Robert Nelson, that state's preeminent artist of the period. Shark went on to the University of Wisconsin and the University of New Mexico to perfect his chosen craft. After that, he worked for a time at the famous Tamarind Lithography Studio, which was then located in Los Angeles but has since moved to New Mexico. He later worked in London with British printmakers Editions Alecto and the Petersberg Press.
In 1974, Shark and his wife, Barbara, a painter and a key component in the operation of Shark's, moved from London to Boulder. Despite his good printmaking credentials, however, there were no jobs available in his line, and he was forced to make a meager living by painting signs. After struggling for a year, Shark began to fantasize in 1975 about opening his own print studio and decided that Boulder could financially sustain such a shop, at least if it was of the small storefront variety. A year later he launched Shark's by inviting a local artist, Gordon Mansell, to do a print. It was an experiment, and Shark pulled Mansell's print for nothing.
Success was almost immediate when, that same year, Shark used his overseas connections to land a large commission from London's Waddington Galleries for a suite of lithographs. This legitimized Shark's Inc. both around here and overseas, and the business soon grew by leaps and bounds.
The studio, now at its third location, consists of a complex of buildings in the foothills above Lyons. Among the whispering pines, up a steep, winding gravel driveway, is a cool '60s ranch house and a recently built print studio, a painting studio for Barbara and a small residential cottage for visiting artists.
For most of the time that Shark was establishing his practice in the Boulder area, Havu was building his own business in Denver.
Havu moved down from Aspen in the mid-'80s and opened a wholesale print business on the second floor of a Victorian commercial building on Park Avenue, right above the Robischon Gallery. After Robischon moved to lower downtown in 1990, Havu followed suit a year later, opening the 1/1 Gallery and beginning the retail phase of his career. The odd name, which remains in the gallery's logo and on its Web site, refers to the way monotypes are marked: One out of one. As could be expected, mootypes were a specialty of the 1/1 Gallery. Many of these monotypes were commissioned by Havu and executed by Mark Lunning's Open Press.
In 1998, Havu moved again -- this time to a dazzling, custom-made building in the Golden Triangle -- and changed the name of his operation to the William Havu Gallery. He also shifted his exhibition programming; at 1/1, prints were the main course, but they were garnished by exhibitions of paintings and sculptures. At William Havu, prints have been virtually banished from view, with paintings and sculptures predominating.
Now that's apparently changed again.
Select Prints gets under way with the work of Red Grooms, the legendary New York pop artist. Havu's large middle room has been accented with a half-dozen pieces by Grooms. In several of these, the artist pushes the printmaking medium right off the wall and creates -- with Shark's expert help -- three-dimensional color lithographs. Call them what you will, they're hybrids of prints and sculptures.
These sculptural multiples are made by die-cutting various prints and assembling them together. One of the most ambitious of these is 1989's "Little Italy," a tabletop diorama of a comic-book version of a street in New York's Italian neighborhood. In "Fats Domino," from 1984, another tabletop piece, the great musician is seen sitting at his grand piano. In 1997's "Jackson in Action," a wall-hung construction, Grooms good-naturedly skewers the painter, who is depicted at work, his many arms suggesting movement.
These 3-D prints are miniature corollaries to Grooms's more famous and much larger painted-steel sculptures.
The next artist is Montana's John Buck, whose three monumental color woodcuts have been hung in the niche formed by the display-window bay that runs across the front of the gallery.
Two of the woodcuts, "Red Jesus" from 1986 and 1994's "The Mechanic," are closely associated with Buck's sculptures: Both vertical prints are dominated by a conventionalized figure running up the center, and in both, Buck surrounds the simplified figures with a multiplicity of images, many having a mystical, or at least mysterious, quality. The last print, "The Deep End," done earlier this year, is more soothing. The principle imagery is of a group of goldfish swimming in a water-filled jar.
One of the strongest features of Buck's pieces is the way they are simple and complex at the same time; he uses large shapes that are clearly expressed yet filled in with layer upon layer of images.
Another artist in Select Prints who is represented by several examples is Betty Woodman. Best known for her ceramic sculptures and vessels, Woodman lived in Boulder from the '50s until her retirement from teaching a few years ago. She now lives in Italy and New York, maintaining studios in both places. Her spectacular and highly regarded Shark-produced prints, which depict her ceramics in imaginary and imaginative stage settings, are installed in the room tucked below the mezzanine. For example, in "Boardwalk Vase," a 1998 color woodcut, a teapot is seen with the ocean in the background. And in the 1999 woodcut "Portuguese Palace Couple," a vase and a bowl are standing on a balcony.
Other important works here include New Mexico master Luis Jimenez's "Mustang," a color lithograph from 1997, and New York artist Janice Provisor's "Good Night Hong Kong," a 1996 lithograph and woodcut with metal leaf.
And don't miss the last leg of the show upstairs on the mezzanine, which features prints by California tattoo artist Don Ed Hardy and New York cartoon artist Elliot Green. There are also a couple of prints by William Wiley from California, including the gigantic and spectacular "Leviathin II, No. 4." This piece is covered in lines, smudges and the written word, obscuring the whale that fills the exaggerated horizontal picture from end to end.
The relationship between Shark and Havu is a happy one; it gives the maker a seller and the seller some choice items to hawk -- not to mention the visual banquet provided the rest of us.
In addition to the Shark extravaganza, Havu is hosting a second show with lots of prints and other works on paper. Making a Mark: Ralph Steadman features recent works by the internationally famous British illustrator. These prints were pulled by printmaker and sometime Steadman collaborator Joe Petro in Lexington, Kentucky.
This is the second time Havu has presented an exhibit devoted to Steadman; the first was in 1995 at Havu's former location, the 1/1 Gallery. Steadman has ties to Colorado since he is an old pal of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who lives in Aspen. He illustrated some of Thompson's books and stayed with him during the opening of this show.
Steadman is known for his satirical cartoons first published in England in the 1950s, but he became truly famous for his work in the British humor magazine Punch. In addition to cartoons, he has found a good deal of success in the creation of book illustrations.
The pieces in Making a Mark are modern in style, though generally, they aren't completely abstract. Most often, Steadman's subject is recognizable, but in many cases just barely so, as in the four mixed-media pieces from the brand-new "Big Face" series. In them, Steadman uses wide angular blocks of color to build crude renderings of faces.
More in signature style for the artist are the mixed-media pieces and steel-plate etchings displayed around the corner at the bottom of the stairs. "Mark 2 - Mark Twain," another new mixed-media piece, is the kind of thing that made Steadman's name famous. He uses spatters and skeins of fine lines to fill out a surrealist version of Twain's familiar features.
Making a Mark is the perfect companion for Select Prints, since the works on paper in both shows lend a consistency to the Havu Gallery, and rarely has it looked so good.
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