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Marc Snyder: In Black and White

This exhibition is a survey of my recent work in printmaking. Over the past 4 years I have focused on relief prints, and all but two of the original prints in this show are linocuts. Relief is in some ways the simplest and most obvious way to make a print. You start with a block, and start cutting. Anything you cut is going to be white, anything you leave behind is going to be black. You roll ink on the surface, and transfer the ink to a piece of paper. Any kid that has made a potato-print knows how it works. And that kid might discover that there's a graphic kick there that isn't as easy to find with the muted greys he gets with his pencil.

But this is one of those times when something simple to do becomes difficult to do well. The simplicity of the process creates some rather severe limitations for an artist who wants to work representationally. For me, this is where it gets fun. I greatly enjoy the demanding limitations of relief printmaking. As anyone who has picked up a gouge and cut a block can attest, it's a rather unforgiving medium - you cut something and it's gone, there's no going back. If you're printing from a single block, your palette is limited to a strict black and white, with no intermediate shades of grey. Without a range of values at hand, your toolbox for modeling consists of the width of your lines, the spaces between them, and the direction in which they travel. Small changes can have big results. And working on a small scale only magnifies those challenges.

That small scale is part of the history of printmaking, as prints were traditionally hand-held artworks. There's a lot about that history that I find compelling. I enjoy using relief printmaking, one of the oldest ways to mass-produce images and texts, to celebrate the works and lives of contemporary or modern writers. I remind myself that all of the printmaking media were at one point in time the most efficient way to communicate, to transmit information from one person to another. Relief prints were the faxes and email of the fifteenth century. And as a conduit of information, prints often addressed strong political content. These multiples were meant to get the word out. I embrace that tradition as well.