Bringing artists to the world of print

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Hybrid Solid Composition 2

Intaglio & relief print, H 42 1/2 in x W 29 1/2 in

photo: copyright Rik Sferra, 2010

artwork: copyright Carlos Amorales & Highpoint Editions, 2010

Mexican artist Carlos Amorales works primarily with paper silhouettes, cutting out images of birds, spiders, and people in blacks, reds, and grays and then combining them in ways that resonate and intrigue. He’s also created animated videos using his silhouettes, much as noted American artist Kara Walker has done. But in Amorales’ hands the images become an exploration of Mexican history, class and culture.

Highpoint Center for Printmaking’s Cole Rogers saw in Amorales the makings of a great print artist.

The work had a very strong graphic quality that at the same time had an air of mystery or ambiguity which doesn’t usually go with a graphic style. It’s that tension between the known and unknown that was intriguing to me. Something that’s recognizable but at the same time has parts that are unfamiliar… but not so unfamiliar that you can’t relate.

Rogers paid a visit to Amorales’ studio in Mexico and invited him to collaborate with Highpoint on a series of prints. Amorales would come up with the images, and it would be Highpoint’s charge to translate those images to ink and paper.

Little did Rogers know what he was getting himself into.

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Snake Glyph 3

Intaglio & relief print, H 60 in x W 40 1/2 in

photo: copyright Rik Sferra, 2010

artwork: copyright Carlos Amorales & Highpoint Editions, 2010

The prints which now hang on the walls of Highpoint’s gallery represent months of work; some individual prints took three days to make, running the same paper through the press over and over again. But Rogers says it’s undeniably been worth it; he’s incredibly pleased with the beauty of the show:

I think they’re wonderful images, intriguing, very unlike anything we’ve done before – they are so hard edged and graphically oriented.

Amorales’ style of working is very playful; sometimes he would simply shake up a box full of plastic silhouettes, open the lid and say “there, that’s what I want to print.” Other times he would take an image in Photoshop and copy it over and over again, with the click of a mouse. It was Rogers who then had to figure out how to create the same image with ink on paper.

Like the best collaborations it starts out with an unstructured game – playing with media, and ideas, and seeing where the story leads us. Sometimes it’s a relationship based on trust and a willingness to accept failure en route to finding something new.

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Azar composition 2

Intaglio & relief print, H 48 in x W 36 in

photo: copyright Rik Sferra, 2010

artwork: copyright Carlos Amorales & Highpoint Editions, 2010

Part of that collaboration, Rogers says, involves helping each other to see with new eyes.

[Amorales] came with some tools for making some drawings, and he was interested in making prints with them. We found that the tools could function in a very different way -he looked at the edges and I looked at the surfaces. And through experimenting with that, he found a new way of making related images, but in a different way than he’d expected.

For his part, Rogers was coaxed from saying “No, we can’t do that – that’s impossible” in response to certain ideas to “okay, we’ll give it a try.”

The fact that [these images] are so pristine, and the lines and shapes are so precise – everything has to be right. There are no grays, or chances for a fingerprint to be hidden here or there. A small crease of the paper, any slip of the hand shows. And when you have three people working simultaneously on a piece that is 4X6 feet and has 180 printed components, there are lots of chances for error. But really going for it, making the best statement possible rather than trying to economize, is always worth it. You have to take those risks.

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Skeleton Image 1

Intaglio & relief print, H 48 in x W 36 in

photo: copyright Rik Sferra, 2010

artwork: copyright Carlos Amorales & Highpoint Editions, 2010

So why does Rogers go to all the trouble helping artists bring their ideas to life on the printed page? He says he enjoys the challenge.

Someone asked one time if I still make my own prints, and I could. There are people who grind their own inks, make their own papers, do their own printing. But in this I’m more a partner in a larger production. I like to think of it as the difference between making an exquisite home video, and being a professional photographer on a movie set. This way I’m part of something bigger. We’ve helped him accomplish something he couldn’t do on his own; we get to contribute to a greater whole, and that’s really satisfying.

In exchange, he says, the artist comes away with something he or she might never have otherwise done, which may lead them down new paths in the future.

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Useless Wonder Map 1

Relief Print, H 39 1/2 in x W 52 1/2 in

photo: copyright Rik Sferra, 2010

artwork: copyright Carlos Amorales & Highpoint Editions, 2010

Amorales is currently extremely busy, with simultaneous shows in Mexico, Zurich, Amersterdam, Rome, New York and Minneapolis. He’s set to come to town in mid-November to see his digital ideas brought to life, hanging on Highpoint’s gallery walls. Rogers says he imagines it will be akin to an author getting to hold his beautifully bound book for the first time.

Skeleton Images Tossed by Chance runs through November 20 at Highpoint Center for Prinmaking in Minneapolis.

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