Thursday, November 10, 2022

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

With a collegial and tight-knit arts community like Rhode Island’s thriving, it is possible for individuals to make a huge impact on the arts scene. Local engraver Jacques Bidon is one such artist. Bidon not only does his own work, but has also mentored many local engravers. A testament to Bidon’s impact within the community, his work is featured prominently in two concurrent exhibitions at Providence City Hall and the galleries of Providence College.

During his career, Bidon became a fixture in the local art scene and is known as an expert in printmaking. Born in Haiti, Bidon is the child of a print shop owner and his early years were spent exploring the world of letterpress. Reflecting on this early learning process, Bidon says, “When I found out what I could do with type, typography and images and how to layer colors so they could look like multiple colors, I been addicted.” He then spent over three decades working as a commercial printer and today combines his extensive knowledge of craftsmanship with his unique artistic eye to create his own work. In Providence, he was active in the AS220 printing company and is also affiliated with the Counterform design studio.

When asked what he loves most about Rhode Island’s arts community, Bidon replied, “It really is as simple as the word itself: Community, building community through the arts.”

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

On view until January 18, 2022, in the main gallery of Providence City Hall, a selection of prints by Bidon are in the exhibition The George Stinney Project. Featured alongside work by Baub Bidon and Marco A. McWilliams, Bidon’s print is part of a project that explores the 13th Amendment. Typical of Bidon’s work, the pieces on display at City Hall incorporate imagery and text to create works of art that speak to their viewers.

Bidon’s contributions to the George Stinney Project are full of thoughtful references that go to the heart of its aims. Quotes from James Baldwin are fused with images through letterpress and offset lithography processes. The results are elegant and defy categorization as simple works of art or political posters. They also share important content within a community space.

Across town at Providence College Galleries, Bidon is a central figure in the Providence Prints! exhibit, which is on view until March 3, 2023. The exhibit is a celebration of printmaking and Bidon’s collection is displayed centrally alongside its industry peers. During a recent opening of the show, many colleagues praised Bidon’s influence in their remarks, describing him as a teacher, mentor and friend. His influence on the whole group was obvious.

Speaking of Bidon, Jamilee Lacy, Director and Chief Curator of PC Galleries, says, “It seems like every artist in Providence who prints has a story about Jacques’ generosity and its impact on their creative practice. Indeed, we realized that every artist and collective in our Providence Prints! show had learned and/or collaborated with Jacques at some point. So we decided to highlight him and even blew up one of his works to create our title wall.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

Where Bidon’s works at City Hall are tightly choreographed, his contributions to Providence Prints! show a wider range of techniques. An image of this group is printed on a reflective surface and asks viewers a direct question that reads, “What do you see?”. In this piece, the directness of Bidon’s art form is evident. Typography as a medium is both powerful and fragile. With his expertise and artistry, Bidon keeps this craft alive while commenting on important topics.

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PHOTO: Michael Rose

When asked what he hopes viewers take away from his work featured on these shows, Bidon is community-focused and said, “I hope these impressions of historical figures and quotes relating to what happening today can be used as an educational tool in schools across RI. I believe that with the right words and beautiful layers of color, I can brighten up someone’s day. I believe in the power of print and, as one of my favorite prints says, “Print Like You Give a Damn”.

Bidon is one of the most influential engravers in the state. In shows at City Hall and PC Galleries, viewers have the chance to explore what makes this talented artist such a remarkable creator and see the indelible mark he left on the community.

Details about visiting the Main Gallery at Providence City Hall can be found at www.artculturetourism.com, and information about visiting the PC Galleries can be found at pcgalleries.providence.edu.

Learn more about Jacques Bidon at www.jacquesoffset.com and follow his ongoing projects on Instagram @jacquesoffset.

Michael Rose is a multi-talented fine arts professional based in southern New England. Since 2014, he has been the gallery director of the historic Providence Art Club, one of the nation’s oldest arts organizations. In his current freelance work, he advises collectors and artists, provides appraisal services, teaches and carries out curatorial projects.

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