Predictions & Premonitions
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Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
November 6, 2007
DeKalb — If you can make it there, the song says, you can make it anywhere.
A group of Northern Illinois University School of Art students, five of their predecessors and their two professors will chomp a bite from that big apple this weekend.
“Predictions & Premonitions,” an NIU-developed exhibition of printmaking that attempts to glimpse into the future, opens Saturday at the Pearl Street Gallery in New York City. A reception is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. that afternoon at the Brooklyn gallery.
Michael Barnes, an associate professor in fine arts, discovered the unique opportunity. It’s the first trip to NYC for many of the students and, for most in the group, the first time to exhibit their work in “the center of the art world.”
The Pearl Street Gallery is located near the base of the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, “a neighborhood that is happening with artist’s spaces and alternative gallery venues,” Barnes said.
“I was in New York City last year for an exhibition I was in, and I met Dr. Graeme Sullivan, who’s an associate professor of art education at Teachers College-Columbia University. He’s running the Pearl Street Gallery, a not-for-profit gallery in Brooklyn, and we went to see one of the shows. He suggested I submit a proposal for our group here. I followed up on that, and it came to be,” Barnes said.
“This is very exciting,” he added. “New York City is the center of the art world. The gallery scene is focused primarily in Chelsea, but there’s been a lot of movement toward Brooklyn because the space is more affordable and accessible.”
Barnes and faculty colleague Ashley Nason wanted to include all of their currents students, both undergraduate and graduate, and also selected the small group of alumni “just to feature the diversity of our program and the breadth of what printmaking encompasses.”
“Each group has slightly different focuses and stylistic trends,” said Barnes, who came to the NIU School of Art in 1998. “We try to maintain diversity. We let the students and their individual voices shine through, and I think our group displays that with their work, both traditional and contemporary.”
Printmaking has four major disciplines: intaglio, lithography, serigraphy and relief.
NIU’s coursework in intaglio includes etching, engraving, drypoint, collagraph and photo etching. The lithography courses provide instruction in stone, aluminum plate and photo lithography. Serigraphy (silk-screen) offers students the opportunity to learn stencil, resist, photographic and monoprint/monotype techniques utilizing water-based inks. Relief printing encompasses woodcut, linoleum, wood-engraving, monoprints, monotypes and collagraphy.
Contemporary approaches to printmaking include digital aspects as well as mixed media, such as sculptured prints.
The combination of printmaking and student-faculty-alumni collaboration appealed to Pearl Street administrators, Barnes said.
“This particular gallery runs a lot of education-based shows, and they like the sense of community that printmaking has,” he said. “We work in a studio reliant on equipment and space, so everyone tends to work in the same studio. We have to get along.”
Indeed, the brochure for “Predictions and Premonitions” has a similar thought from Barnes: “We all work alongside one another while creating our prints, sharing ideas, philosophies and energy.”
“ ‘Predictions & Premonitions’ are visual slippages that mutate between anticipation and alarm as the artists move past foibles, present fictions and future freakouts,” Pearl Street’s Sullivan wrote on the brochure. “Printmaking is an ideal medium to carry the artist as oracle and omen and the terrain troubled by the Illinois artists’ delights in its unsettling aesthetic.”
Graduate student Michael McGovern hatched the theme, suggesting the group concentrate on futuristic themes usually found in science fiction. Others expanded the theme by using a crystal ball to peek at the futures of their own artistic medium and NIU’s printmaking program.
“We have a strong community of artists working in printmaking all over the world,” Barnes said. “We tried to look at what our program encompasses and how it relates to the larger art world.”
As the students conceptualized, constructed and completed their works, they also wrote proposals to the school, the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Graduate School in search of funding for the NYC jaunt.
With money earned from a silent auction and with financial support from the university, all of the students are able to attend Saturday’s reception.
Preparation also has meant matting and framing their works as well as building their own crates for packing and shipping. NIU’s delegation will arrive in Brooklyn a few days early to install the exhibition.
“It’s good experience for them,” Barnes said. “All of the students were like ‘Wow.’ A couple came in and said, ‘I called my parents last night. I was so excited.’ ”
Students making the trip include Tim Dwyer, Ann Flowers, William Higgins, Darren Houser, Anna Kenar, Peter Kenar, T.J. Lemanski, McGovern, Curtis William Readel and Jane Ryder. Alumni are Garrett Brown, Chris Cannon, Kevin Clapp, Michael Drogo and Valerie Wallace. Roxanne McGovern, McGovern’s wife and a printmaker herself, also is exhibiting with NIU.
For more information, visit www.pearlstreetgallery.net.