Creative research is something that is often difficult to maintain. Too often an artist only finds a limited market for their work, or they may also find the process of promoting their work to a wider audience daunting. This is why it is important to support local places that offer exhibition spaces conducive to this type of intellectual experimentation.
The Massillon Museum’s Studio M is an exhibition space inside the museum that showcases the artistic talents of local, regional and national artists. The current exhibit, “Michael Gill: The Adults Keep Talking/Nobody Knows Why,” is a vivid example of why exhibition spaces like Studio M are so valuable and important to the Northeast community. east of Ohio.
Michael Gill is a Cleveland-based writer and artist who is perhaps best known as founder and executive director of the Collective Arts Network and editor/publisher of CAN Journal. His exhibit features woodcuts from two of his books, “Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child” and “A Pocket Full of Change,” as well as original examples from these and other books.
In his statement on the show, Gill says, “I came to woodcut and typography as a writer, in the midst of a career that began in poetry and evolved into long-term journalism. duration. When my children started to read, what came out of me was writing for them. And it was the need to give them these stories and poems that drove me to learn how to compose, sculpt and print with wooden blocks, and finally to make books.
The resulting illustrations are graphically interesting and brightly colored illustrations that match the stories in Gill’s books. The pieces also retain interesting aspects unique to the woodcut technique. Features such as wood grain and wood cutting tool marks are adopted and used to enhance the chosen imagery.
“He wanted to finish the job” is a color woodblock artist’s proof from 2018. It corresponds to a particular passage from Gill’s book “A Pocket Full of Change”, which can be viewed in the Studio M gallery.
In the image, a child rides a bicycle down a tree-lined street on which there are various styles of houses. The houses, the trees and the cyclist are all done in black ink. The sky behind the scene is blue and a ray of yellow light from the sky illuminates the cyclist. Other colors are also used: gray for the street and red for one of the houses.
It’s an accessible and cheerful image that, like all the work included in the show, uses wood grain as an interesting textural element.
“His mind was on the boxcarsis a color woodblock artist’s proof from 2015. This work also corresponds to Gill’s book “A Pocket Full of Change”.
The piece features images of red wagons with a red caboose. On the caboose is a graffiti painting of a face with what looks like a graffiti tag next to it. In the foreground are train tracks in gray and the background features a blue sky with the wood grain pattern visible through. This “sky-bound” wood grain substitutes well for a depiction of clouds.
Certainly one of the most intriguing aspects of this exhibit is how the woodcuts interact with their corresponding texts. For the most part, the text is presented as a wall tag instead of what would be a corresponding page in a book. At other times, text and images are all presented on the same page using movable type. It’s interesting because one format is obviously sequential, and the other is more of a standalone poster. This aspect helps to create an interesting literary and visual interaction as you walk through the gallery, read and interact with the work.
“Red Pipe Wrench” is a color woodcut with movable type from Gill’s book “Common Household Rhymes for the Modern Child”. You can also view this book in the gallery, so you can see it featured with the text on the opposite page or , as in this case, with the text just below.
The woodcut features a red plumber’s wrench, blue needle-nose pliers, orange-handled screwdriver, copper wire, hammers, and drawings of pieces of wood and small screws. The text of the corresponding poem helps describe what is depicted. Like all of Gill’s pieces in the exhibition, there is a joy to be had in this work that is palpable. There are also important thoughtful and even formal aesthetic and compositional choices.
Although the books in this exhibition were designed for children, the images, techniques and ideas are still very serious. It is, in part, the clear commitment to this line of artistic inquiry, the various important attributes of the artist’s handwriting, and Gill’s interest in the use of woodcut and letterpress processes that make this exhibition so compelling.
Anderson Turner is Director of Collections and Galleries at Kent State University School of Art. Contact him at [email protected]
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Exposure: “Michael Gill: Adults Keep Talking / Nobody Knows Why”
Place: Studio M of the Museum of Massillon, 121 Lincoln Way E, Massillon
Appointment: Until June 1
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday; 2 to 5 Sunday; Closed Mondays and holidays
More information: 330-833-4061 or massillonmuseum.org