East Coast Screen Print Biennial in Troy

screen print biennial 2014 composite

Clips from pieces from some of the artists whose work will be on display (clockwise from top left): "They Said Stones" by Shawn Bitters; "Canopy" by Taryn McMahon; "Demos Onoiroi" by Mark Hosford; "Laugh Riot" by Midwest Pressed (Tim Dooley and Aaron Wilson).

By Lauren Hittinger

This September the first East Coast Screen Print Biennial is coming to the Capital Region, and it's a pretty big deal.

Screen printing as an art form has been around since the early 1900s, tracing its roots to industrial printing. And most of us have screen printed items in our houses, probably in clothing and other textiles. Even so, there hasn't been a recent large scale exhibition in the United States to showcase the art form.

Local artist and RPI faculty member Nathan Meltz decided to change that. So he organized the biennial at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy to celebrate the artistic side of the medium and showcase many of the different paths this artform can take.

First of all, what is screen printing?

Screen printing is an image-making process in which a stencil is created on stretched synthetic mesh. Ink is forced through the open areas of the mesh stencil, and an image is printed on a variety of printing materials, called substrates. These substrates can vary, from paper, to textiles, to ceramics and plastics. This process is used in processes as varied as art prints to printed circuit boards. This process is also called silkscreen, serigraphy, and screen printing, depending on where you where educated about the process.

nathan meltz screen printing
Nathan Meltz

Why did you decide to pull together this show?

Back in the summer of 2013, I attended a printmaking conference in Scotland, where art historian Richard Noyce presented on an Experimental Etching Biennial somewhere in the Soviet Union Eastern Block. It got me thinking, "Is there a screen printing biennial? Anywhere?"

The answer was that has been a Japanese screen print biennial, but, as far as I could tell, there was no running screenprint biennial in the USA.  It got me thinking that there should be, and I started brainstorming in my head, thinking "what would my dream screen print show look like?"

What should someone visiting the exhibition expect to see?

A visitor should expect to see framed prints on walls. And giant vinyl stickers on the floor. And maybe the ceiling.

Giant mylar sheets will be hanging from the ceiling, and there will be several sculptures, one of them really big. There will be some animation, and a good amount of politics.

Who are the artists involved in this exhibition?

There are approximately 30 artists involved (some artists, like the Little Friends of Printmaking, are actually two people). The artists are selected from all over the USA, and represent a range from academic artists, to working artists represented by galleries, to people who skirt the line between fine artists and the graphic design world.

I selected all the artists because I thought they all made innovative, expressive, or important works highlighting the medium of screen printing. The show in no way tries to be a survey or a "who's who" of the medium. The biennial is just the start of a conversation about contemporary screen printing, a conversation I hope will continue for many years and many more biennials.

I selected all the artists because I thought they all made innovative, expressive, or important works highlighting the medium of screen printing. The show in no way tries to be a survey or a "who's who" of the medium. The biennial is just the start of a conversation about contemporary screen printing, a conversation I hope will continue for many years and many more biennials.

This interview has been edited and condensed.
____

Here's the brochure for the biennial. The opening reception is Friday, September 12 from 5-8 pm at the Arts Center. There's a symposium that Saturday from 12:30-1:30 pm. The exhibit runs through October 11.

And during September's Troy Night Out (September 26), there will be exhibits at various locations around downtown Troy.

All the events are free.

Lauren writes about shopping, crafting, and living well on a small budget at The Thrifty Ginger.

Meltz photo courtesy of Nathan Meltz

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