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"Pulled Pressed and Printed, Chicago" at Expo 72

Chicago celebrates local printmakers such as Jay Ryan + Spudnik Press.

Expo 72 was buzzing with activity when I stopped in to see this exhibition about Chicago printmakers. Spudnik Press conducted a free workshop as tourists examined works by local print shops, collectives and individual artists.

Some of these works reference Chicago’s flag and seal to celebrate the city’s 175th birthday. Sonnenzimmer’s Urbs in Horto (“City in a Garden”), one of my favorite pieces, shows a city in the process of reinventing itself. Two figures loom over a collaged map of Chicago, each digging up earth, their watery blue shadows stretching like the Chicago River across the cityscape.

Other standout works include Kerry James Marshall’s Keeping the Culture, a screenprint and linocut featuring a vibrant, richly detailed familial scene set inside a spacecraft, and Ray Noland’s expressive First screenprints of Barack and Michelle Obama, which were part of his 2008 GoTellMama! campaign. Both were printed at Hummingbird Press L.A.C., where master printer Thomas Lucas raises awareness of black artists’ contributions to the medium.

Famed poster maker Jay Ryan’s hand-drawn type and human-like animals are instantly recognizable, as is cartoonist Lilli Carré’s fanciful storytelling. Too much whimsy and anthropomorphism mar the etchings of Deborah Maris Lader and Megan Sterling, both members of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative. (No more deer-headed girls, please.)

There’s not much explanation of process here, nor much wall text at all—save an introductory statement printed on cheap paper—but the show’s DIY, somewhat haphazard organization manages to work with the theme. Though in no way comprehensive, it’s a worthy tribute to the city’s robust printmaking scene.