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Rochester prints and book arts at WNYBAC

A block print by Victoria Brzustowicz

Give and Take

The current exhibit at the Western New York Book Arts Center opens with a sobering reflection from former Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis. He stated, sometime around the middle of the last century, “We can either have a democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” We know how that’s worked out.

The Brandeis quotation is handsomely presented on a letterpress poster by Ray Sowers. The exhibit consists of posters and other printed materials, including a few one-of-a-kind artist books, by members of the Printing and Book Arts Center from Rochester.

Advertising posters, usually for club musical occasions, incorporating vintage-looking public domain graphics, and more strictly art posters, sometimes with verbal content, but often without. Such as Geri McCormick’s pair of abstractions about drumming (Percussion No. 1, and Percussion No. 13), featuring similar horizontal rows of blue and yellow, and blue and yellow overlap, vertical stripes. Very beautiful. Or her monoprint multi-color blend (background), with (foreground) graphic items including a guitar, a fountain pen, and crickets and butterflies.

Also outstanding aesthetically are Victoria Brzustowicz’s pair of block prints, one a Renaissance-reminiscent three birds in a tree medallion, the other of a garden with flowers and butterflies again, and brief legend, “In summer, the song sings itself.”

Also Susan Sims’ linoleum block blueberries and sprig of leafy greenery, chastely illustrating lines from Robert Frost beginning “Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb…”

Also Chris Charles’s monoprint poster featuring cup of coffee theme graphics against wide-brush slash strokes of pastel green and orange.

Two of the artist books are by Emily Sterling. One composed of illustrations from an old anatomy textbook—exquisite fine line depictions of the muscle and nerve soft tissues, complete with Latin names—one a double-accordion-foldout book each page of which presents a different vivid solid color block, and text suggesting a synaesthetic musical connection, as if the sequence of colors represented a sequence of musical notes in major and minor scale arrangements.

Another artist book, by Brzustowicz, is called Streetviews. It consists of what look like washed-out watercolor copies of banal and unspectacular street scenes, and a poem that begins: “I am not sure/ where I am going…” and concludes: “I feel like/ I know now/ no now/ the street.”

The exhibit is called Give & Take. It continues through March 31.

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