Visions and Revisions: RISD Museum show brings the past into the art of today

Richard Earlom - The Forge - mezzotint - chiarobscuro rendering contrasted of inside of a forge animated

The Rhode Island School of Design, RISD for short, has an amazing museum, with a phenomenal collection of prints and drawings.  Over the years the department of Prints and Drawings has also had the good fortune of being staffed by some of the best curatorial minds in the country.  They have and continue to put together attractive and intelligent shows.

Martin Schongauer - The Entombment - engraving - Christ in the arms of his mother Mary

Having departed in the last few years, and now both curators at the Cleveland Museum of Art, were Emily Peters and Britany Salsbury.  Both left their mark on the department and curated some wonderfully innovative shows while there.  Today the department is staffed by no less-talented people.  Jan Howard heads the department, assisted by assistant curator Jamie Gabbarelli and curatorial fellow Anita Bateman.

Eugene Delacroix - Un Forgeron - blacksmith at work - contrasted image with dramatic light coming of molten metal - aquatint

This winter a show titled Visions and Revisions opened, and it runs through August 4th.  The show is described as an attempt to “tell the story of the invention, reuse, and revival of traditional printmaking techniques throughout the history of that groundbreaking medium”.  It focuses on both intaglio techniques, both line and grayscale.  The techniques that are approached are engraving, mezzotint, etching and aquatint.  The historic artists that are introducing these technical skills are respectively Martin Schongauer (1430-1491), Richard Earlom (1743-1822), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) and Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828).

Carol Wax - Singer II - sewing machine close up - dramatic contrasted light - mezzotint

The curators however, draw the contemporary public into this historic realm with artwork of today.  An engraving by Andre Raftery, mezzotints by the likes of Carol Wax and Frederick Mershimer, and a color etching with aquatint by Katja Oxman are all contemporary examples of these same techniques being reused and reinvented.

Andrew Raftery - Open House - Scene One - Living Room - engraving

Katja Oxman - An Open Window - color etching and aquatint - RISD Museum

While no Mesh artist is represented in this show, we could easily have seen etchings by the likes of Livio Ceschin, Nikki Barber or Bobbi Angell, a color mezzotint by Michel Estèbe or Jukka Vänttinen, a color aquatint by Christian Bozon or Anna Jeretic, or an aquatint by Hélène Bautista or Fumiko Takeda.  These artists, while innovative, each in their own right, do find ideas and inspirations in the work of previous generations and different cultures.  This reverence to the past is what enables them to intelligently interpret the world today in their art.

Livio Ceschin - Angoli Vissuti - Happy Places - Lived Corners Nooks - etching drypoint - bench outside -coffee cup

Jukka Vanttinen - Stream - mezzotint

Nice work, RISD Museum!  And if YOU are in Providence these coming months, don’t miss this show.

Christian Bozon - Carinoso - color aquatint.jpg

Helene Bautista - Salle des Pas Perdus - etching and aquatint

Fumiko Takeda - 武田 史子 - Wandering Stars - 彷徨う星 - intaglio - etching aquatint - hot air balloon

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