It was nearing the end of a sunny mid-June afternoon as I concluded a brief interview with Stefanie Fedor, Executive Director of the Arlington Arts Center (AAC). After speaking with her about the upcoming exhibit titled CTRL + P, a collaborative curatorial project involving two emerging curators and printmaking, she smiled and returned to her office.
The AAC building — a former school, and recently renovated to be an exhibition space, community center and artist residency, was still closed for installation. I was left by myself facing everything that was to be CTRL+P: two levels of uncommonly positioned contemporary works, bourn from printmaking techniques (via unrecognizable means in many cases). I clutched the exhibition postcard in my hand and proceeded to inspect the exhibition spaces, checking off names as I paired them with the pieces. The show seemed mysterious and sprawling. There were twenty-seven artists chosen by two curators. Post-it notes placed on walls were all I went by to identify who did what. What a gas that was.
It was all initiated back in December 2011, when I was pleased to accept the invitation to document Kristina Bilonick’s process for being one of the curators for CTRL+P. I first met Bilonick at a meeting for The Studio Visit well over a year prior to March 2012. Whether one knows her personally or not, it’s easy to grasp that she has had a proliferation of influence in the DC art world, and conducts her work with outbound exuberance and enthusiasm, both in her own practice and as a curator and proprietor of Pleasant Plains Workshop. As an artist who is relatively new to the curatorial process, I knew that following her journey would be fruitful and interesting. During the four months that followed, I met with her several times to get a sense of how she was managing herself and the project. I quickly discovered her core concerns as a curator — unorthodox creative process, involvement with the community, taking charge of an artist’s own affairs — and how they were directly informing the developmental arc of the exhibit. It was pleasant and fun to work with her, as she remained steadfast amidst the constant whirlwind of activity.
The intention behind CTRL+P’s scope and duration seemed to be mammoth. The show runs for nearly three months. It was confirmed early on that two curators would pool their artists into one exhibit. Both of them would make a conceptually-aligned duo that closely followed checklists for turning in such an exhibit. When I met Bilonick at Pleasant Plains Workshop, she mentioned that her partner had “more of a New York base”, and that her input added to the diversifying aspect of the exhibit. Bilonick also noted her excitement to be fostering alliances and creating a dialog with artists outside of DC. Several of them she wasn’t even previously aware of; they were discovered during her research. Others were artists she had known about, and was choosing to work with for the first time. The result of CTRL+P was an exhibition of high caliber artwork that fit the criteria of the venue quite well. The artist roster displays an interesting array of various backgrounds, and boasts a thread of impressive profiles.
“The theme literally is new directions in printmaking. It’s not something that just gets reproduced over and over. The show includes people with no background in it, yet who are introducing practices into their work,” explains Bilonick.
Plenty of famous artists, Chuck Close for example, fit into traditional notions of printmaking by producing sideline editions of marketable prints. The core of CTRL+P is the function of great diversity in (one-of-a-kind) contemporary artworks. The fact that the works are unified by Bilonick’s premise, cleverly underscores how far outside of the technically based boundaries it is possible to travel artistically.
As evident in the collaborative installation piece by Gretchen Schermerhorn & Franc Rosario, the woodcut printing technique is quite discernible. Yet within the parameters of all the work in the exhibit, they are dissolved into a soup-like spectrum of the differing subjects, materials and formats.
Perhaps part of the message with CTRL+P is that anyone could incorporate aspects of printing technique, albeit in a conceptual way. What could be somewhat surprising or ironic for some is the exhibit’s weighty sense of aesthetics. This characteristic apparently wasn’t lost in translation, since much of the work has such high visual impact. Saturated color adorns roughly half the work by Bilonick’s artists, such as in Annie Albagli’s print-paintings and Anthony Dihle’s wheat-paste poster piece. Likewise, the dominance of pattern lie at the heart of Serena Perrone and Jeremy Flick’s respective work. Then there’s also imagery in some that combines all of it, as in Jordan Bernier’s wonderful silkscreen video. This visual feed makes for a visceral experience that can widen its appeal and consideration among viewers.
Kristina’s choice of artists are a testament to her own fresh vision of what printmaking can be as well as evidence of a kind of research that goes from contacting someone she has known and worked with before, to diving into that first time contact. The works under her guidance are impressive and push the boundaries of traditional printmaking in subject and technique. The exhibit will be up through September 15, 2012 in Arlington, VA at the Arlington Arts Center. There will be critiques and talks throughout the summer for CTRL + P. To find out more about CTRL + P and Kristina Bilonick’s artists, please go to www.arlingtonartscenter.org