Michael Parsons Fine Art

Prints on demand: Want to see my etchings?

Portland Art Museum, Michael Parsons Fine Art, and Augen Gallery offer a summer course in print appreciation

By LAUREL REED PAVIC

The question “Do you want to see my etchings?” was the Victorian version of the mid-twentieth-century “Would you like to come up for a nightcap?” which somehow has been supplanted by “Netflix and chill?” in the twenty-first century. Prints may have lost their footing as the go-to euphemism for sex, but the many examples and varieties of printmaking on view right now at the Portland Art Museum, Michael Parsons Fine Art, and Augen Gallery prove that they haven’t lost their allure.

Printmaking may not be the flashiest of art forms, even for connoisseurs of Victorian art. It rewards slow, close looking and an appreciation of technical processes. Prints are realized through an intermediary: The artist doesn’t manipulate the product directly but instead acts upon a matrix be this a plate, a stone, or a screen. The print is the product of the transfer of the matrix to a substrate, traditionally paper. The matrix can be used multiple times resulting in multiple impressions, and this potential for multiplicity makes printmaking so powerful, socially. Artists exchange prints. Prints enable the circulation of ideas, forms, and styles. Prints provide artists the opportunity to explore themes and ideas in a different format; many painters are also printmakers. Because prints are often conceived of as forming groups or suites, an artist can offer multiple ruminations on a single topic. Prints are for collectors. It is rare for someone to have just one: like humans they exist in relationship to one another, defined by the company kept and enriched by one another. In short, prints fuel art.

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Well-worn Oregon, refugee dreams

K.B. Dixon's Oregon photos at Parsons and Friderike Heuer's photomontages at Camerawork strip back the veil of the ordinary

I caught up not long ago with the Portland novelist and photographer K.B. Dixon, who wrote good gallery reviews for me years ago at a once-daily newspaper where we both worked, and whose fascinating portraiture project I wrote about a year ago in Face to Face: K.B. Dixon photographs Oregon artists.

K.B. Dixon, “Stars and Stripes,” 2014, silver gelatin, 8 x 12 inches.

Dixon’s most recent photographic show, Town & Country: Excerpts from an Oregon Journal, is entering its final week at Michael Parsons Fine Art, where it closes Saturday. As in Face to Face, all of the images are black and white, emphasizing the structure of things and the subtleties of light and dark. And while Dixon doesn’t expressly pick out the weird, in that amped-up Portlandia way, he has an eye for the offbeat and unusual, from his portraits of street characters to his evocations of Oregon architectural survivors from an earlier, more fiercely independent time. Dixon’s Oregon, urban and rural, is a place well-worn, from drive-in ice cream joints to murals on the walls of old cannery buildings to the studio of a fiercely focused glass blower to the wondrous time machine that is the Ringler’s Annex Bar building at Stark and Burnside in downtown Portland. Dixon quietly reveals an Oregon that is right in front of us, if we just stop and take the time to see.

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