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Exhibit showcases prints by artists from Southwest, Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico has long been a haven for printmakers. The “Prints by Southwest” large group exhibition at the South Broadway Cultural Center highlights the strength of modern printmaking throughout the region, including Arizona, Texas and Mexico.

“Receive the Desires of Your Heart” by Tanya Rich allows viewers with smart phones to see the portrait as an augmented three-dimensional cyber image.

The overwhelming number of artists and works in this 83-print, 73-artist floor-to-ceiling monumental installation limits the focus of this review to a few highlights.

Modern printmaking got its first major boost in 1949 when internationally renowned abstract expressionist Adja Yunkers founded the Rio Grande Workshop in Albuquerque, where he produced the “Prints in the Desert” portfolio in 1950, with works by 14 artists, including the late painter and printmaker Robert Walters and sculptor and photographer Herbert Goldman.

The “Prints in the Desert” portfolio edition of 220 copies and many original works was exhibited internationally.

Less than 20 years later, the Tamarind Institute of Lithography, founded by artist June Wayne, moved from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, with Clinton Adams and Garo Antreasian at the helm.

“Untitled Relief Print” by Karsten Creightney skillfully imparts our anxiety driven and too often disjointedly irrational contemporary culture.

Among many private workshops over the years, the New Grounds Print Workshop, founded by Regina Held, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and is now called the Remarque Print Workshop under new ownership.

“Prints by Southwest” has its own history chronicled in the “Desert Triangle” catalog, which accompanies the exhibition. Viewers are encouraged to look way up, as two large works are displayed at each end of the curved glass ceiling of the main gallery.

The entire show is graphically powerful and filled with a staggering variety of images. Some works are even phone-app-activated, like “Receive the Desires of Your Heart” a boldly rendered augmented serigraph by Tanya Rich of Tucson. When viewed on screen, the red flowers behind the portrait head float forward in space and truly separate from the picture plane.

When John Paul Gutierrez silk-screen printed “My Wicked Pony,” he also saw it as a three-dimensional sculpture. The show includes a metallic coated sculpture that was computer-designed from Gutierrez’ serigraph.

Among my more conventional favorites is Karsten Creightney’s untitled relief-print, which is a combination portrait and still life in glorious black-and-white.

Creightney has an uncanny narrative ability to impart heartfelt emotion and story line to the viewer. In many works, the artist articulately communicates the disjointed and too often irrational nature of our modern culture.

Though there are many stunning broad palette works, including “Serigraph,” by Michael Roman, who used to create T-shirts for Carlos Santana, I’m inexorably drawn to the powerful black-and-white images, such as “He Who Eats Pork Rinds in The Morning, Won’t Get Gray Hairs The Next Day,” by Juan de Dios Mora.

The image features an excellently drawn convoluted partly bald male figure replete with a writhing serpent adrift in a nocturnal black void. If that’s what it feels like after a fistful of pork rinds I think I’ll pass and live with a few gray hairs.

Another sizzling black-and-white is “City Dweller Meets Wildlife” by Chris Bradley. The jaw-dropping draftsmanship reveals a city slicker trying to bareback ride a big black bear without success. The hapless drugstore cowboy is falling backward and may be about to experience the bear-wrath-of-grizzly-irritation.

Show organizer Karl Whitaker puts the jitter back in jitterbug with his collaborative serigraph “Tan-Drian” a synthesized cubist/futurist dancing figure that jumps and jives across the paper.

“Tan-Drian” is a fusion that includes kinetic art, minimalism and a modicum of computer puck and pluck.

Another nicely rendered black-and-white is “Dos Caminos #2” a lithograph by Toru Sugita of San Francisco, who creates an atypical diptych held together by subject more than by interlocking design elements.

Despite its nonconforming layout, a long viewing rewards one with a beautiful snapshot of quotidian life in an unassuming neighborhood. I ended up liking Sugita’s vision.

Overall, this is a great and rewarding exhibition well-worth a long visit. Special kudos to curator Augustine Romero and organizer Karl Whitaker for their brilliant achievement.