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Printmakers line up to exhibit

The exacting art of printmaking brings together artists for whom a single line can hold a message.

It's small. It has no color. At just 18-by-12 inches, Back Yard, a linocut by artist Stanley Kaplan, is a modest depiction of a humble subject: garbage cans below, and clothes lines around a window where a mother and son care for their window plants.

But the graceful flow of the pure-white laundry, outlined in black, dancing above the gray earthbound trash, transcends the mundane and opens the mind to interpretations that would not be out of place among the spiritual.

It would be hard to imagine this work more effectively translated by any medium other than the linocut, or linoleum block print, which enables the artist to execute bold lines for sharp contrast, softer lines for shading and swift, confident strokes for facial expression. The work is nothing earthshaking, nor is it meant to be, but it beckons us to pause. And reflect.

In this age of photoreproduction, where everyone can plaster their walls with big, pretty pictures at reasonable cost, we lose sight of the fact that less can be more.

And that a print can be an original work of art, taken from no other medium, made entirely by the artist, requiring a high degree of learned skill and inborn talent.

All this must be understood before the viewer attempts to appreciate the 11th National Print Exhibition or its companion show of Florida printmakers, now at the Dunedin Fine Art Center. Both shows are presented by the Florida Printmaker Society. The national show, which has exhibitors from 21 states, was juried by Carmon Colangelo, director, Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia. Its only other venue was the New World School of Arts earlier this year.

Some prints are big and bold, such as Art Werger's etching, Krishna, of a girl underwater, a technical tour de force to which Colangelo awarded first prize.

But more of the works are small and subtle. Understatement is in keeping with the historical tradition of making a work that could be reproduced, often for a portfolio to be perused on a table rather than on a wall. Some works involve technological advances (Boyd Saunders' use of digital imaging) or a mix of processes (Celeste Pierson's photo etchings), but the mediums are mostly the long-accepted etching, intaglio, woodcut, silkscreen (serigraph) and stone lithograph. Leave it to big workshops, such as Graphicstudio at the University of South Florida, to tackle major innovations.

The works on view are labor-intensive, which you might think would be balanced by the multiple copies possible with a print. Yet most of these graphics are in very small editions, often of just five or 10. You can be sure that each work has been pulled by the artist who then inspects each result, rejecting any that might be off-register or otherwise imperfect.

Probably the best-known of the exhibitors is Warrington Colescott, emeritus professor of art at the University of Wisconsin, whose work is included at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and who has exhibited in the bay area before. His Sweat Couture comments satirically on consumer gluttony at the expense of others, as does Anthony Tovell's Consumerous Pickius. An amusing touch is Tovell's "Pork Chop," a takeoff on the Asian printmaker's signature "chop," outside the intaglio indentation.

Among other works are Grace Brentley-Scheck's Inside-Outside, with little architectural details worked out in a collagraph, Frances Myers' amusing etchings of Mao's China, Cosette Dudley's Sea Tales V, Boats Rowed Out at Dawn which suggests an ominous narrative, and Dennis Rowan's strange self-portrait, with its pinched waist and pierced hand. Each is a memorable treasure.