MENAGERIE: Works of Michael Loderstedt at William Busta Gallery
We were looking at the three-dimensional, screenprinted blackbirds in Michael Loderstedt’s “Menagerie,” when I had this conversation with my twelve year-old son:
“Imagine if you took a sheet of paper and draped it over a basketball, and folded it down to try to make it fit the sphere. You know how it would wrinkle and fold to go around the curves?” I asked him.
“Yeah, you’d have to cut it like slices of an orange to make it fit right,” he said. He was familiar with the concept, having seen it in maps that lay flat the shape of the spherical earth.
So imagine how much more complicated those lines become when the shape isn’t consistent, but instead has multiple parts, and curves that vary from one end to the other, and even change directions. Because, of course the shape of a blackbird is much more complicated than a uniform sphere.
I’ve long marveled at the precision engineering Loderstedt brings to his work., and the birds in his “Menagerie” take that to the proverbial next level. Printed flat, the paper is cut, folded, bent, and put together so that the finished piece makes the three-dimensional form of a big black bird.
I first took note of Loderstedt’s precision paper management years ago in a little accordion folded book he’d made, which accounted for the thickness of the paper so that the folded pages wouldn’t wander out of line as the folds piled up, and so that the spine would fold square with the rest. It’s an easy concept to grasp and describe this way, but a bit more of a challenge for an artist to implement in the real world with a ruler and knife.
In “Menagerie,” Loderstedt applies that kind of engineering to complex shapes, including birds, an ocean liner, and some human skulls. The show presents both the finished objects, and the almost flat prints, framed and floating behind glass—almost flat because even in this format, the shapes are partially cut out so that the prints jump free of the page. I actually prefer these to the fully constructed birds because they show print as a flat design, which to my eye implies the 3-D potential and better flaunts the skill of mapping it out. It’s like a map of a bird, laid flat in the way that you’ve seen maps of the earth.
One of the most intriguing of the structured screen prints is an ocean liner with connections to Loderstedt’s family history. It’s built like the birds—printed on a single, flat sheet in such a way that—cut, folded, bent, and stuck together, it makes a 3D model. As the artist said in an article on the Printeresting blog, his mother told him a story of crossing the Atlantic from Germany to the US by ship while she was pregnant with him. The piece is printed on both sides so that the finished structure has details inside and out, and also tells the story in words printed in both German and English.
“Menagerie” also includes detailed, structured screen prints of several houses, as well as some large photographic prints. It’s on view through February 5 at William Busta Gallery.
FAUNA: Works of Christopher Smith at Shaker Lakes Nature Center
Another guy whose craftsmanship I’ve long admired recently unveiled new work in an exhibit setting for the first time in about a decade. I first met Christopher Smith when he was living on the West side and showing art with Abe Olvido, back in the ‘nineties. Smith then showed me some fine ceramic pieces in graceful forms that emphasized finesse and craftsmanship.
Recently—at least to me –he has turned his attention toward nature, via a series of images made with stencils. His Wild Pulp greeting cards use the cut-out sillhouettes of animals as a window on color and texture from their habitats–the bark of trees or grains of woods, or the soft patina of stones, captured in photos.
In his show “Fauna” at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, he’s used stencils to make shaded charcoal drawings of various birds, ducks, and bees. The nature of the drawings is not forgiving. Unlike painting with acrylic or oil, which might allow for correction by piling on more medium, these drawings are like a high wire act, wherein a stray mark would almost certainly mean starting from scratch. I asked if he threw any away during the two weeks or so he took to make the approximately 15 drawings. Just one, he told me.
The fauna in these pictures seem to have been caught in positions and from angles that a photographer might catch: in motion, not posed, casual, natural. They’re deceptively simple, exceedingly graceful. And they’re on exhibit through March 30, 2012 at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. So go check them out.