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VISUAL ARTS REVIEW: Screen Printing 101

Corporate Art Sucks: Don't bother looking for mass-produced prints at 52.5's new show

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Screen Printing 101
On view through Dec. 31
Free
52.5 Records
561 King St.
(843) 722-3525
www.corporaterocksucks.com

These days we're so used to corporate-led, mass-produced ads that it's hard to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into screen printing.

This isn't work made on a computer and printed out in one go. It's made by hand, carefully printed layer by layer, with a color painstakingly added each time.

If one layer's screwed up, the artist has to start from scratch.

Some of the art in Screen Printing 101 is amazingly intricate, with 10 or more colors and great attention to detail. Most prints were put together over a two-day period. But it's not just the production process that's fascinating in this satisfying group show at 52.5 Records.

The finished pieces riff on 20th-century pop culture and art history, showing how effective a few basic colors can be in the right combinations.

Above all, the show is a guide to the sheer array of ways a memorable print can be created with direct, unpretentious images. In fact, the simplest artworks were the best sellers this time around, such as Mike Klay's "Star Trail #1359." Showing a moon with concentric circles, it has branches rustling at the print's edges and a light brown sky that's mesmerizing.

This show's a sequel to a poster exhibit held earlier this year at 52.5. Both events were organized by local artist Chuck Keppler, whose own work is remarkable for its half-tone nods to silent movie stars, pop art, and contemporary photography.

Over a dozen artists are involved, including Dan Grzeca, Strawberryluna, Johnny Pundt, and Standard Design. Some of the pieces are holdovers from the last show, including gig posters for Arctic Monkeys, Maria Taylor, The Black Keys, Gore Gore Girls, and The Melvins.

Other work exhibited: Leia Bell's smooth, flowing illustrative art; Crosshair's streetscapes like "1319 W. Lake," meticulous in its registration and use of several colors; and Adam Turman's prints, which have a curvy '70s look — with its portrait of a svelte lass in "Hot Cocoa."

The abundant references to the 1960s and '70s are a throwback to that era's relatively primitive printing methods before innovations in digital print technology sent handmade pictures underground. Screen prints at 52.5 are hung among racks of CDs, but that never diminishes the art's cumulative effect.

The juxtaposition of colors leads the viewer through the store from one print to the next. There's variety here, too, though it's never overwhelming. And the art is affordable (limited-run prints for $30-$40), all of which makes this new show a strong move forward for 52.5 as an alternate art space for underground and contemporary art.

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