Saturday, August 10, 2013

Brentwood: The Beauty of the Surface, The Symphony of the Suite

If you have been a fan of Flatbed for any amount of time, you have probably been intrigued by the bold color and patterns in Ann Conner's large scale woodcuts.  Ann has shown and worked with Flatbed since the mid-nineties.  As Master Printer, I have had the pleasure of printing or proofing four of her major projects which include the Madrone Suite in 1996, Park Suite in 2000, Westwood in 2004 and most recently the Brentwood Suite in 2010.  This November Ann is scheduled to return to Austin to create another suite of prints and exhibit some of her new work.   

I was drawn to her early woodcuts because of her attention to the printed wood grain as well as curious carved contours of puzzle pieces. The Madrone Suite is an example of the early woodcuts. They were more than formalist exercises.  They playfully explored visual and intellectual content of subject and ground, minimalism versus pattern, the whole versus the part.

The creative process for Ann is often divided into two parts:  the development of her woodblocks through drawing and carving the wood blocks then the production of the prints through proofing and editioning.  Designing and carving the blocks is an individual endeavor.  Ann works for months to develop and carve the images into plywood blocks at her studio. She works out the designs and patterns at full scale on paper and transfers them onto the wood.  Using a hand-held Japanese carving tool she incises the lines or shapes into the blocks.  Ann brings her large scale blocks to Flatbed where she and our printers begin the proofing process on our large scale Takach press.  Proofing means we try printing the blocks with different colors on different papers using various printing techniques until we achieve the way the artist wants it to be printed. Her approach to the creative process of proofing involves her, myself, our master printer, Tracy Mayrello and our assistants in constant color proofing to search for the correct combination of color and block that work to create a suite of prints.  Decisions have been made in advance about possible papers and ink colors, but it is only when we start the proofing that Ann can make a final decision.

In 2009, Ann brought three large woodblocks to Flatbed which had been carved on both sides.  These six carved relief surfaces were used to create the suite of prints now titled the Brentwood Suite.  The large carved shapes of these blocks consisted of ovals, diamonds, circles and squares. They were arranged into structured patterns and configurations that have a mathematical logic in their placement.  It wasn’t until Ann identified the shapes as crafting pattern templates that I could identify their source.  Her ability to see and use these “ready-made” shapes in a unique way seems to transform and elevate the beauty of the form.  This transformative concept was extended to her color choices as well.  The Brentwood Suite was named after the middle to upper class suburban neighborhood of Los Angeles which is similar to many newly constructed city neighborhoods with contemporary strip malls, wide boulevards, familiar chain restaurants and closely cropped and manicured landscaping. The colors found in the architectural and landscape colors encountered there or in any similar neighborhood were inspirations for Ann’s choice of colors. She isolated and printed the “fast-food” yellow, the ubiquitous swimming pool blue, coffee shop green and so on.  I found myself finding her colors all around me in neighborhoods of Austin.  Ann insisted that the ink we used in the prints be pure and not mixed to with white or other colors to change the intensity of the hues that are in the ready-made PMS oil-based inks. As we proofed, we found that some blocks’ patterns seemed to call for lighter colors and others for darker ones.  For example, Brentwood 5, which has a diamond configuration of scalloped diamond shapes was printed with an aqua blue that suggests pools, skies, and reflections.  

 Ann’s ultimate goal during the proofing was to achieve a group of prints that work separately and hold together as a whole.  We were pushed to proof the blocks in many of the colors and arrange them in a salon configuration to determine how they worked together.  There were 36 possible color combinations for Brentwood and the proofing took five days to finalize colors for each of the prints.  

I compare the visual result of what can be seen as The Brentwood Suite to what you might hear in a woodwind ensemble: six woodwind instruments with their own tenor creating their own distinct and complete voice that can be experienced in collaboration with each other creating a new concordant, harmonious voice.  Each final print can be enjoyed as a single voice or in harmony with another.  The suite of six demands more space and creates a symphonic experience.

Ann's new project is due to be printed at Flatbed in November at the same time as an exhibition of her new and older works.


Monday, June 24, 2013


Randy Twaddle at work on Lankydoo
I have been a long-time fan of Randy Twaddle and his large scale drawings. The conceptual underpinning of Randy's work is the tight balance and contrast of controlled, logical and systematic linear elements against the fluid beauty of chance, arbitrary, and atmospheric stains.  As a lover of art history, I compare his Transformer drawings to a marriage of the sensibilities of Michelangelo's Pieta with Helen Frankenthaler's Bilbao. Control and Determination meet Mystery and Flux.  Linear and Narrative meet Exponential and Free-forming.  When Randy accepted our invitation to come create work at Flatbed,  I was honored to be able to collaborate with him in a project.

Randy came to Flatbed to plan his etching and we discussed working with a Transformer image.  Randy's transformer images are influenced by heavy electrical wiring and transformers seen (and not really "seen") in our urban environment.  Randy has long been fascinated with these images and we deemed it ideal for the printmaking techniques of aquatint and line etching.  We determined that he would create the linear forms with line etching and tightly controlled aquatint etched to print a deep and dense black.  The free-form fluid "ground" to be printed in a transparent brown would be created with aquatint etched with his pouring a nitric acid solution directly onto the copper plate.  Randy would have some control over the directional "run" of the acid but ultimately, the flux of the acid would create its own shape and gradations.

Master Printer Tracy Mayrello proofing Lankydoo
The process of working with Randy to etch and proof two plates took about five days before we came up with the R.T.P., a right to print proof which determined how we were to print the edition. During the collaboration there were dramatic moments, not the least when Randy applied the liquid acid and gum Arabic mixture to the copper plate and holding and moving a large copper plate, while he controlled the direction of the "run" of the acid. The linear plate was straightforward for Randy to draw and for us to etch, but the primary variable of this etching proved to be the exact, transparent sepia colored "stain" ink for the background. Randy was fond of the stain that coffee makes on paper, and we attempted to get that luminous color by mixing several earth colors of inks and making the mixture very transparent.  However ink colors can vary even from reputable vendors, and after several weeks of re-mixing and ordering new inks then re-proofing, we achieved the right color and could go forward with the edition.  Editioning this large etching took two months, and Randy signed all the prints of the edition of 24 in July 2012.  

As is the case with all fine art prints as well as any art object, this work should be experienced first hand. Lankydoo is now on exhibition at Flatbed.  Our gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am - 5pm and Saturday 10am - 3pm. We are also open by appointment to all who would like to see this or any of our prints outside of normal open hours.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Larry Scholder at Flatbed Press, 2009
A reception is planned this Friday evening, June 21 at Flatbed from 6 until 8 pm for Larry Scholder celebrating his exhibition Archive.  This exhibition of works does not constitute an archive or a collection of every print Larry has created, but in this case the title refers to Larry's shapes, lines, forms and minimal color that have become more than a visual vocabulary.  They are his Archive.

The show has been up for a few weeks now, and I get to linger and look longer than I usually do at exhibition openings.  I am reminded of Girogio Morandi and his archive of forms.  Like Morandi, Larry works with minimal forms and repeats them.  He also works with minimal color.  Stripping most of the color away from what might be considered biologically based shapes, we are left with bare, flattened shapes and the spaces between them.  These forms themselves are not the subject matter, but the relationship of the forms to each other and the space they occupy seem to become pressingly important.  Some of Larry's prints at times seem visually playful.  Two of Larry's relief etchings hang side by side.  Spawn I and Spawn II at first seem the same, and yet, with close inspection the minute difference start to sharply erupt on our vision and our visual memory is acutely challenged.
Scholder, After, aquatint, 2006

The exhibition represents nearly twenty years of Larry Scholder’s work as an artist/printmaker and constitutes a retrospective of his developing vision. Archive was first mounted at the Pollock Gallery of the Meadows School of Art at Southern Methodist University, where it was exhibited in the fall of 2012.  Scholder served as professor at SMU from 1968 until 2012.  In 1994, Flatbed published one of Scholder’s prints as a part of the Flatbed Portfolio and since that time he has continued to work with Flatbed on various intaglio projects.

Scholder, Apogee, aquatint, 2005
Archive will be up until August 24. Flatbed's gallery hours have changed and now are Tuesday - Friday 10 am until 5 pm and Saturday from 10 am until 3 pm.  We are also open by appointment.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Michael Ray Charles, White Power (REWOP ETIHW), hand-colored etching, edition of 50, 1994.

Twenty years ago Michael Ray Charles came to Flatbed to create an etching for the Texas Fine Art's annual membership print.  He was a new hire for the University of Texas Department of Fine Art and his work was attracting a great deal of attention nationally and internationally.  His paintings were disturbing to many because he used imagery based on stereotypical caricatures of African American people found in popular advertisements during the early to mid twentieth century.  Politically correct white artists and collectors had mixed feelings about Charles' work. My first reaction was a sense of discomfort and shame stemming from the fact that images like his had existed to degrade and demean African American people since the Jim Crow era.  Some African American artists and collectors had angry reactions.  Perhaps they felt that these images were too much of a reminder and reinforcement of the widely believed stereotypes laid on people of color.

Michael Ray Charles signing "BLACK CATS GO OFF"
Michael's TFAA project at Flatbed was a combination etching, lithograph, and linocut titled   Black Cats Go Off and signed as FFO OGOSTAC KCALB.  The backwards text was intentional.  Michael accepted an opportunity to create a second etching while he was in the studio to be a part of Flatbed Portfolio I, a collection of prints by Texas artists.  The artists included  in this portfolio had included:  Dan Rizzie, Larry Scholder, Melissa Miller and Terry Allen and went on to include Celia Munoz, Casey Williams, Luis Jimenez and Sandria Hu.  Each edition in the portfolio would be 50.  
For his Flatbed Portfolio I print, Michael created a hand-colored etching that featured a caricature of an African American boy eating a watermelon against a distressed, degraded background.  This is the kind of image you could find in American advertisements of the early to mid-twentieth century. The image was deeply etched into a scarred, irregularly shaped copper plate and when printed gave the appearance of a weathered and disintegrating broadside.  I found it uncomfortable to print this image at first, but the added backwards printed text, ETIHW REWOP, reshaped the image contextually.  The image was transformed into a statement about the backwards impact of "White Power." Michael explained that the image was created by whites but believed by blacks.  Now the image stood as an empty, backwards icon that should not and would not hold truth.  The power of the image was deconstructed just as a backwards reading WHITE POWER no longer made sense.

REWOP ETIHW, more often referred to as WHITE POWER, was released as a Flatbed publication in 1994.  It was not a popular print until 1997, when Michael's exhibitions in Austin, Germany and New York started receiving acclaim.  His images and ideas started to be understood and embraced.  In 2000, the Museum of Modern Art bought an impression for their collection, and over the next few years sales increased until all of Flatbed's impressions were sold.  

Recently, a collector who owns two impressions of WHITE POWER informed me that she was willing to sell both impressions and I have agreed to list these for sale on our web site.  The unique numbers of these impressions are 2/50 and 3/50. Both impressions have been framed professionally. This rare opportunity allows me the chance to show and write about WHITE POWER once again. For more information, you can contact me, Katherine Brimberry, through Flatbed Press.

It is said that the truth will set you free, even when it is uncomfortable.  Today when I see Michael's etchings created in 1994, those feelings of shame are gone and replaced by an awareness of the present.  The truth is that there are other stereotypical images that exist and live in movies, television, newspapers, novels and music that spread ideas of prejudice, racial stereotypes and racial profiling. These images are often more subtle than the WHITE POWER image, but they can be believed and ultimately do damage to us all.

For more information about Michael's work visit Flatbed's artist page at MICHAEL RAY CHARLES, see his interview on Art21 or visit his University of Texas website.  If you are interested in WHITE POWER, contact Flatbed Press at 512.477.9328 or email

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jules Buck Jones In the House: UPDATE


Update: Continental Divide
Tuesday, May 21, Jules signed the edition of 10 ten etchings and a few color trial proofs. The title that Jules gave to the 44" x 12" etching is "Continental Divide." Jules explained that he drew his inspiration for the etching from his time in Costa Rica. At one point he stood at the continental divide which of runs through the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve of Costa Rica, one foot on the Pacific side and one on the Atlantic, surrounded by the dense cloud forest. Six impressions remain of the edition.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Four At The Flatbed Building

There may have been some rumors and rumblings recently about changes at Flatbed.  Yes, there have been changes and all for the better!  We are pleased to announce that Gallery Shoal Creek has relocated to the Flatbed Building and our 02 Galleries have been remodeled for "Indie" produced exhibitions.  Flatbed's own gallery and offices spaces are also undergoing a face lift and monthly exhibitions are being planned for the coming year featuring vignettes of featured Flatbed artists. Meanwhile back in the studio, projects are underway and new publications are coming.

This Friday, April 19 from 6 until 8 pm in conjunction with three other galleries, Flatbed announces the Grand Openings of four separate exhibitions in the Flatbed Building. 

In Flatbed's Gallery hangs The Lightness of Being, an exhibition of Joan Winter's etchings created at Flatbed Press and her remarkable sculpture.  Her work is influenced by contemporary Japanese architecture, especially spaces emphasizing light and transparency as primary elements. Apart from Winter's exhibition, Flatbed is also showing the polymer photogravure prints of John Winter, etchings and woodcuts by James Surls, Julie Speed's hand-colored etchings and new prints by Suzi Davidoff.

Gallery Shoal Creek's owner and director, Judith Taylor, has created a truly urban and sophisticated space within our walls that will serve to beautifully present the work by the artists she represents.  This Friday's opening will feature exhibitions by Jennifer Bell, Imagination, Gregg Kreutz, Mystery & Light, and Tony Saladino, Movement and Color.  This is a must see exhibition and a real celebration for their new and expanded space.
The same evening RSquared Art Management opens Gestural Abstractions in the 02 North Gallery at the Flatbed Building,    The exhibition showcases emerging artists Padaric Kolander, Paul Meyer, and Blake Bush. Their new work will be on display until May 11, 2013.

Gracing our east 02 Gallery is Oscar Silva, Past Life, a retrospective exhibition curated by Studio2Gallery. This exhibition will be up until April 24.

We hope to see you at Flatbed this Friday evening.  It is a night not to be missed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Samson Mnisi, Out of Africa

Samson Mnisi at Flatbed 2008
Samson Mnisi's last name can be translated as "Rainmaker" and he comes from a family of whom it is said cured drought in South Africa.  We met Samson at Flatbed when he came to Austin for the first time in 2000 as an invited speaker for the Austin Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Liberated Voices," which featured works from artists freed from apartheid in South Africa. This was one of the first major exhibitions to explore the work of a younger generation of South African artists who had emerged since the fall of apartheid. Samson Mnisi’s work was featured in the exhibition. A politically and socially active figure in the African National Congress during the apartheid era, Mnisi had participated in the post apartheid regime as a cultural organizer, artist and activist.
Samson was in Austin for enough time to get restless from not making art, and when he learned of Flatbed, he made up his mind to spend some time in our studio making monotypes as he loved to do in his hometown, Johannesburg.  Working on his own, he created a series of highly expressive and iconographic monotypes. When he returned to South Africa, he left all the work with Flatbed to be sold for him here. 
Mnisi, untitled, Monotype, 2008
Fast forward to 2008, Samson was back in the USA and showing in major expositions throughout the world.  Circumstances brought him back to Texas and he came to Austin to work on more monotypes.  This time he set his sights on our large press to create a cycle of large seven foot by three foot monotypes.  Master printer, Tracy Mayrello became his collaborator and they commenced to create a cycle of ten multi-layered monotypes that were incredibly dense with symbolism and color during a period of four weeks. Tracy, who is a master of using the single level viscosity monotype method, layered rolled-on colors with Mnisi's direction.  These color fields with Mnisi’s painted imagery worked brilliantly to create the dense, large unique works on paper.   Mnisi, using the large near 72" x 36" format, had the perfect, vertical, person-sized surface to create a map-like image that one can almost fall into.
Mnisi, untitled, Monotype, 2001
Most of the monotypes from this cycle have now been placed with collectors or taken to Samson’s exhibitions, but one belonging to Tracy is a part of the “Advancing Tradition – Twenty Years at Flatbed Press” exhibition now touring in various museums and galleries.  It will be on tour until the end of 2013.  Flatbed retained one monotype that is reminiscent of the African soil with its historical markings embedded.  Flatbed’s inventory also has ten smaller consigned monotypes.  They all share the sense of Samson’s land and its history.  Studying his prints, the markings start to become as familiar as our own body's lines, scars and marks, creating a beautiful kind of familiarity.  His work speaks of paths, history of the land, and the stories that are inherent in the places now in our memories.
I would suggest that you call and make an appointment to see these works.  We are proud to be able to represent Samson in Austin.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Come to the Table

This Monday evening, January 14, you are invited to a visual and culinary feast.  Places are laid for 30 people to come to the table at Flatbed for this unique pairing of artist Jeff Scott and chef John Bates..

About the art: Experiencing Jeff Scott's new photo-polymer gravures seems to spur and sharpen our senses and observations in a way we don't expect. The exhibition now showing at Flatbed, "Evidence of Obsession," is a sampling from 50 works created at Flatbed in 2010. Images of these works were used in his book, Notes from a Kitchen: A Journey Inside Culinary Obsession, which was awarded the James Beard award for photography in 2011.  All these unique works are now available for collectors.

The content and method used to create these works stress the obsession of both the artist and the chefs.  We see obsession in the notes, the push for perfection, the constant searching and tweaking. 
Scott deconstructed conversations and interviews with the chefs finding phrases that captured the moment. Using these phrases as word images, he layered the words much like a layered dish presents separate and compatible taste and textures to create an overall content/taste/experience.  Working with Master Printers Tracy Mayrello and Katherine Brimberry he transformed the photographic images and word images using multiple processes of printmaking.  In the finished works, we take in the phrases with glimpses of notebooks, menus.  We find order amid a chaos of information acquired over a lifetime.

About the meal:  Austin chef, John Bates, is conjuring up a seven course tasting dinner and he promises to do this with a few surprises.  Bates is the co-owner and chef of the Noble Pig which is well known for their high-quality ingredients – including select local and sustainable items – and a practical, crafted approach to making good, satisfying food.   Prior to launching the Noble Pig in September 2010, John was involved with two well-known Austin restaurants as executive chef for 2 ½ years at Asti, and as a sous chef at Wink in the two years prior to his time at Asti. John attended culinary school at Del Mar College in his native Corpus Christi, graduating in 2000, and credits his work in a variety of restaurants since 1991 in helping him to refine his culinary skills and define his approach.

A place at the table of this event comes with a signed copy of Notes from a Kitchen. This is a two-volume book with over 1,000 photographs and in-depth interviews with highly innovative chefs including Sean Brock.   In order to place a reservation email:  Flatbed Press.  

More information can be found at:  Invitation to the Evidence of Obsession event