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Studying the Finer Print : Examples of the absorbing, often adventurous art form are on exhibit in Woodland Hills.

November 18, 1994|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly about art for The Times.

WOODLAND HILLS — Printmaking isn't what it used to be.

Surely there are still printmakers who continue to make fine tradi tional prints such as engravings, etchings and lithographs. But today, some adventurous artists in this field are creating particularly intricate and absorbing prints by using a combination of printmaking techniques in the production of an image. Others are dabbling with the latest technology, making photocopy, laser and ink-jet prints.

"Printmakers are sophisticated today. They do a lot of research and experimenting," said Renee Amitai, a printmaker and member of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. "It's like a sickness. You need it like air. It's hard work."

A good overview of printmaking is on display at Artspace Gallery in Woodland Hills, which is presenting "Small Images," the Los Angeles Printmaking Society's membership exhibit. More than 100 prints by 65 members of this nonprofit group, dedicated to encouraging the art of printmaking, are on view.

"It's a very intimate show," said Printmaking Society president Dona Geib. "You do not stand back and get an impression. I hope (viewers) get up close and look at each one so that they will understand how each artist works so differently in a media that is little understood."

The decision to display only small prints was made so that there would be more space for more members to enter the show, said Amitai, who organized the exhibit. Members come not only from the Los Angeles area but throughout the United States and Canada. Each was allowed to submit two prints for the non-juried show. "We wanted work from all over, to know what the others are doing," Amitai said. "People see differently in different places."

In two examples from her "Window" series, Amitai fuses the process of etching with Chine Colle, a Chinese technique involving the gluing of fine paper--usually Chinese rice paper--or fabric to the print paper during the printing process. Although Amitai has a concept of what the image will look like, there's often a surprise when she pulls the print off the press.

"There is a kind of happening, and I feel it's very spiritual, in what you obtain," she said. "When you see it, it's very mysterious."

Among the prints that provoked particular curiosity and respect from Amitai were Maria Abondolo's relief etching, "There Was a Crooked Man."

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"You have to be a real printmaker to arrive at this sophistication--someone who has a lot of experience in etching," she said. She also called Jani Hoberg's drypoint "Hope"--a lyrical depiction of that feeling--"so special. It is so beautiful, you ask, 'How did she do it?' "

Belle Osipow's richly colorful laser and pochoir (French for "stencil") "Fragrance" also speaks to that question. The print presents the profile of a woman's face as it meets a vase full of radiant flowers. Painting, drawing, and a photograph have been incorporated into the source image from which Osipow's laser print was made.

One of the benefits of laser-printing technology, said Isabel Anderson, a Printmaking Society member, is you can reduce or enlarge a print. Formerly a screen-print maker, she has given up working with the solvents involved in that process to paint and to make Xerox prints, which afford "very nice ranges of grays," she said.

Several printmakers choose to make monotypes, one-of-a-kind images. Susan Smith Evans' quirky, untitled monotype of geometric shapes and pea pod-like forms includes thread and was printed on handmade paper.

Masha Schweitzer's black-and-white monotype, "Windowsill," pulls viewers into the scene, making them wonder what could be going on beyond the frame. Her colorful "Man Smoking," with smoke billowing up in front of the man's face, manages to convey at once the pleasures and dangers of that pastime.

Among the compelling examples of more conventional printmaking techniques are Bruce Carter's bold woodcut image of "Sisters," Donna Westerman's fine wood engraving, "Orangeman's Day," and Karen J. Wesler's very small etching that still depicts an expansive "Villa."

WHERE AND WHEN

What: "Small Images: Los Angeles Printmaking Society Membership Print Exhibition."

Location: Artspace Gallery, 21800 Oxnard St., first floor, Woodland Hills.

Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. today and Tuesday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Ends Tuesday.

Call: (818) 716-2786.

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