Inked well: Chroma printmakers impress

During November and December, several galleries in Central Virginia are devoting their walls to the collaborative project, “Focus on the Print." While Second Street Gallery and Les Yeux du Monde celebrate the career of famed Charlottesville printmaker Dean Dass, three other galleries feature group exhibits highlighting the wide range of printmaking endeavors in the region.

While the WVTF / Radio IQ Studio Gallery and Woodberry Forest School have plenty of interesting prints, Chroma’s 14-artist showcase of work by Richmond’s One/Off Printmakers, complemented by a small exhibit of etchings by Tim Michel, is especially worth viewers’ while.

Running the gamut from monoprints to woodcuts to etchings to screenprints, the 28 pieces in the One/Off show provide a good overview of printmaking techniques (although more—lithographs, letterpress, etc.—remain for the curious to explore elsewhere). The images produced range from purely abstract, such as Janet DeCover’s color-saturated monoprints, “Hew" and "Baru,” hanging in Chroma’s front window, to realistic, e.g. Ann Chenoweth’s botanical etching, “Bermuda Bouganvillea.” 

Two of the strongest works, Laura Pharis’ wood engraving, “The King Died, the Queen Died of Grief,” and Christopher Palmer’s monoprint, “October Evening,” are almost conceptual opposites, though they hang next to each other. Pharis’ black-and-white image of an egg-enclosed swallow, whose body is composed of tiny insects, is a wonder of fine-lined complexity. Palmer’s abstract landscape, on the other hand, offers two equal-sized horizontal color blocks, blue above and brown below, printed on a yellow background—its impact residing in its bold simplicity 

In Chroma’s Passage Gallery, Tim Michel plays with both realism and abstraction in his solo exhibit, “Over the Wall.” Known for his accomplished etchings of landscapes, Michel has begun to experiment with introducing other techniques into his basic prints. His three “Ivy Creek” etchings, for instance, feature the same image of a woodland stream, but Michel uses drypoint and colored pencils to evoke something different in each print. Two convey the melancholia of washed-out sunsets on winter evenings, while the third offers a mid-day blue sky reflected in the creek, the mirrored limbs of trees brilliantly outlined in white.

In four pieces from Michel’s “Anderson Ranch” series, the artist steps out of his comfort zone to create geometric abstracts from cut-up and reconfigured etchings. The compositions offer a jazz-like feeling of improvisation. In one, Michel beautifully punctuates four colorful vertical bars of varying sizes with an off-center orange sphere on the far right.

With Michel and One/Off, Chroma’s plate overflows!

Tim Michel’s exhibition, “Over the Wall,” and the show, “One/Off: 13 (+1) Richmond Printmakers,” is on view through the end of December at Chroma Projects Art Laboratory, 418 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 202-0269.