Review: Ink Masters at Space Gallery

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In its first iteration in 2014, Mo’Print, a biennial convergence of printmaking events organized by the Invisible Museum, had a gravitational center at the McNichols Building, where a riveting survey of Denver’s own Open Press was presented. This year, with McNichols closed for remodeling, there isn’t a flagship venue — but there is something close: Space Gallery, where two shows, Oehme Graphics and Print Educators of Colorado, are on view, together lending some gravity to the proceedings.

In its section, Oehme Graphics features work by one of the state’s premier fine printers. Founded in 2010 by Susan Oehme in Steamboat Springs, Oehme Graphics is the successor to Riverhouse Editions, where Oehme was printmaster for many years. (Interestingly, prints from the long-closed Riverhouse are the subject of another Mo’Print show, at Michael Warren Contemporary.) As Riverhouse did, Oehme works with artists from across the country, like Melissa Meyer and Jason Karolak, both New Yorkers. But to a much greater extent, Oehme carries out prints for such Colorado artists as Homare Ikeda, Diane Cionni, Taiko Chandler, Jeffrey Keith and Monroe Hodder.

The Space installation is bifurcated, with the main leg in the north gallery and the tail end upstairs. The exquisitely done Oehme prints are mostly abstracts, though the press has no specific stylistic bent.

The other show, Print Educators of Colorado, occupies the enormous main gallery. The cliché “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” clearly doesn’t apply when it comes to something like printmaking, with all those pesky skills and difficult techniques that must be mastered.

The styles embraced by the printmaking educators in this group — mostly professors — cover a wide range, from realism to hyperrealism, comix, abstraction and conceptualism. Among my favorite works are the quirky compositions of enigmatic symbols by Mark Friday, the eight-panel realistic view of fallen leaves by Jean Gumpper, and James Dormer’s moody all-over abstractions. Other standouts include the prints by Mark Lunning, one of the founders of Mo’Print and the master printer at Open Press, as well as those by Joe Higgins, Catherine Chauvin and Chinn Wang.

There are many other attractions associated with Mo’Print, the Month of Printmaking, but it hasn’t yet gained the traction of its fraternal twin, the Month of Photography (they’re presented in alternating years).
There is a strong printmaking scene here, though, as these two shows and others amply prove, making Mo’Print’s future prospects look pretty good.

Both of these print exhibits are set to close on April 2 at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive. Call 720-904-1088 or go to spacegallery.org for more information.

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