February 3, 2013

Art Review: Diverse print show poses edgy questions


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“HW12.25” by Henry Wolyniec

Photo by Jay York

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“For the Two: Question #1” by Karen Adrienne

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below


"PRINTS: BREAKING BOUNDARIES," sponsored by the Center for Maine Contemporary Art

WHERE: Lewis Gallery, Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square

WHEN: Through Feb. 23

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

INFO: cmcanow.org; portlandlibrary. com/programs/LewisGallery.htm

I hardly have the space to list all my favorites, let alone discuss them, but highlights include our beloved Will Barnet's elegant "Interlude," Tom Hall's smartly boot-stomped landscape "John Muir once said," Henry Wolyniec's serious but dance-jumpy retro abstraction "HW12.25," Adriane Herman's symmetrically hilarious travel-spill luggage disaster "You Lose, You Ooze" and Karen Adrienne's elegantly messaged and politically unfurled abstraction "For the Two: Question #1."

The most insightful, complex and important piece is Kyle Bryant's large woodblock mounted on shaped wood, "The Mouth of the Lion." Bryant reaches uncomfortably but agilely from giant-scale woodblock through art history directly into street art. The black-ink scene shows an urban house as a monster face: A terrifyingly overlooked reservoir of revolutionary energy.

The building is self-titled and graffiti-tagged, including Bryant's own signature as the house monster's ironically omniscient third eye.

Bryant is not only navigating art history within the image, but he is engaging -- and conceptually surpassing -- overrated but important artists like Swoon who have made the guerrilla-style wheatpaste art movement into a genuine cultural force.

Bryant's work is tough, and he is one to watch.

Walter Benjamin's groundbreaking 1936 "Work of Art" essay assumes a worthy original work of art whose meaning and aura could be crushed by the weight of its reproductions. But Warhol showed us those reproductions could create overwhelming cultural power that, until he came along, had not been mobilized in fine art.

With process and conceptual art, the Internet, water-based inks, Etsy, digital printing and photography all at their fingertips, artists now have a bag of tricks unlike any other in history. They aren't caught up, like most of us always have been, in artifacts.

"Breaking Boundaries" may seem to jump all over the place, but if you take some time with an open mind, you can glimpse some of the edgiest questions in American art.

Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“John Muir once said” by Tom Hall

Courtesy photo

click image to enlarge

“The Mouth of the Lion” by Kyle Bryant

Photo by Jay York


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