Block Print­mak­ing,

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS -

Santa Fe he was a painter. Al­though he con­tin­ued to ex­hibit wood­block prints here and there, I don’t be­lieve he made any new ones af­ter 1916. Lopez ac­knowl­edges this obliquely: “Though Nord­feldt is pri­mar­ily known as a painter af­ter 1917, his ear­lier ex­plo­rations of print­mak­ing im­pacted the gen­er­a­tions of print­mak­ers that fol­lowed.” That is surely the case, but the im­pact came less from his multi-block color prints, like the ex­am­ple re­pro­duced in the book, than from the white-line style he cham­pi­oned in Province­town, which might have un­der­scored the ar­gu­ment more firmly. In fact, the book might well have demon­strated this by in­clud­ing one of the Province­town-style white-line wood­block prints by Ruth Ho­gan, a much-ad­mired con­tem­po­rary mas­ter of that tech­nique who ac­tu­ally lives near Santa Fe and is un­ac­count­ably ab­sent from this book.

Many prom­i­nent fig­ures of the Taos and Santa Fe art colonies en­ter these pages, Os­car E. Bern­ing­haus, Will Shus­ter, and An­drew Das­burg among them. Art afi­ciona­dos will take de­light in dis­cov­er­ing their wood­blocks and wood­cuts, which are likely to be less fa­mil­iar than their paint­ings. (One wishes that Bern­ing­haus’ buddy Bert Geer Phillips was not con­sis­tently re­ferred to as “Bert Greer Phillips,” a small mat­ter, per­haps, but a howler in a book about art in New Mex­ico.)

En­su­ing chap­ters are given over to log­i­cally con­sid­ered pe­ri­ods, topics of im­agery, or artis­tic bents: ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal sub­jects, land­scapes, New Deal artists, ab­strac­tion, ex­pres­sion­ism. A sec­tion on “New Mex­ico’s Pueblo Peo­ples and Lands” de­liv­ers one of the book’s high points, the elab­o­rate color wood­blocks of T.C. Can­non, who stud­ied at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts. (One of his teach­ers there was Fritz Scholder, sev­eral of whose sur­pris­ingly min­i­mal prints are fea­tured later in the book.) Can­non’s largescale prints, which of­ten pro­vide a wry per­spec­tive on In­dian sub­jects, are al­ways a joy to en­counter. He lived hard and died young, be­ing snuffed out in a car crash in 1978 at the age of only thirty-one, a ma­jor tal­ent who might have been still greater. Lopez’s vol­ume brings us right up to the present, fo­cus­ing on re­cent works by Leon Loughridge, Scott Parker, Bob Hao­zous, Gus­tavo Muñiz, Me­lanie Yazzie, Christa Mar­quez, Yoshiko Shi­mano, and — most charm­ingly — Thayer Carter, all of whom con­trib­ute prose ex­pli­cat­ing their work.

Lopez’s pre­sen­ta­tion does fall into for­mula, of­fer­ing sev­eral para­graphs of just-the-facts bi­og­ra­phy on ev­ery artist con­sid­ered and then a lightly an­a­lyt­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion of the prints se­lected for re­pro­duc­tion. It reads some­what like a se­ries of en­cy­clo­pe­dia en­tries, but it’s not al­ways easy (or even pos­si­ble) to piece to­gether in­for­ma­tion one would imag­ine to be es­sen­tial in this con­text, such as when an artist died or when he or she lived in New Mex­ico. Not all of the artists un­der con­sid­er­a­tion lived in New Mex­ico, to be sure, but most of them did, and at least they por­trayed New Mex­ico sub­jects. Al­though this is a gen­er­ously scaled book at 247 pages, Lopez must have had to ex­er­cise con­sid­er­able se­lec­tiv­ity about which artists to in­clude. I re­gret­ted one omis­sion par­tic­u­larly. When Lopez wrote of the mark made on

Amer­i­can print artists from Edo-pe­riod Ja­pan, she was re­fer­ring es­pe­cially to the fa­mous prints of Kat­sushika Hoku­sai (The Great Wave off

Kana­gawa, the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, etc.) and the artis­tic genre col­lec­tively known as ukiyo-e. But Ja­panese print­mak­ing also evolved, and in the 20th cen­tury that school’s de­scen­dant, called shin-hanga, ex­erted its own in­flu­ence on Amer­i­can artists, bring­ing to­gether Edo style with as­pects of Euro­pean Im­pres­sion­ism and re­al­ism. The most em­i­nent fam­ily of that newer school was the Yoshi­das, and one of its most prom­i­nent mem­bers, Toshi Yoshida, spent time in New Mex­ico and made at least two top-qual­ity color wood­block prints of lo­cal scenes: Santa Fe (1971), of ven­dors and tourists at the por­tal of the Palace of the Gover­nors, and the es­pe­cially evoca­tive Ship Rock (1984).

The Carved Line (the book) is el­e­gantly de­signed and beau­ti­fully printed, as one ex­pects of its pub­lisher, the Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press. It in­cludes more than a hun­dred re­pro­duc­tions, many of which will in­vite the reader to crack the spine over and over to re­visit this deeply per­sonal niche of graphic art.

Harold Joe Wal­drum: El con­tra­fuerte grande per­dido de la capilla de Chacón, 1993, linocut on pa­per; top, Bar­bara Latham: Christ­mas Eve, 1926, wood­cut on pa­per; op­po­site page, Ed Had­daway: The Lad­der, 1986, wood­cut on pa­per

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