Artscape: "Visual Dialogues"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

As the Ohio Arts Council begins celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Riffe Gallery's opening in 1989 - including the installation of a photo montage of previous shows that will go up this Friday - it brings to gallery visitors images from a cultural partnership that's been around since before the gallery saw the light of day.

Visual Dialogues is the latest Riffe show to spotlight part of the state agency's International Program, which has been swapping artists and ideas with sister cities in other parts of the world since 1988. This one focuses on one of the best-known and most productive unions, involving printmaking facilities Zygote Press in Cleveland and Grafikwerkstatt in Dresden, Germany.

While there's been more than one print-specific show in the Riffe's history, previous sightings were something like greatest-hits compilations of works inspired by the exchange.

The new exhibition places greater emphasis on a smaller number of artists who've crossed the Atlantic - five from Ohio, six from Germany - and each presents several works from a cohesive series that sometimes expands beyond the central medium.

It starts with strong contrast. To the immediate left of the gallery entrance is a short stretch of large, fiery works by Dresden's Jean Kirsten. They enrich images of magnolias with super-sizing and a beautiful density of color that comes from the artist printing on both sides of a translucent surface.

Hanging beside them are small, structured abstracts by our own Larry Winston Collins, where something like city skylines are hand-hewn in cool, metallic blues.

Contrast runs through individual artists' work as well. The reproduction element of printmaking is undermined by Susan Squires, who uses spare geometric prints as a base to build up and scrape away layers of wax and oil stick.

On a facing wall, Detlef Schweiger offers mysteriously enticing abstract forms of black and gold, made one-of-a-kind by embossing crinkly texture onto the paper with found objects like flattened cans.

Also worth checking out are the shapes in sea colors made by Jana Morgenstern when she applied hands to rocks to paper - the iconic kids' book The Very Hungry Caterpillar came to mind - and the woodcuts of Claudio Orso-Giacone. They don't conjure such pleasant associations, but the artist's depictions of life as a row house of regret and politics as a deadly board game are undeniably powerful.

Members of Umbrella Poets will offer their response to the exhibition in verse from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday.

"Visual Dialogues"

Where: Riffe Gallery, Downtown

When: Through April 12