12 March 2019
Zachary J. Engelman
The invention of the letterpress revolutionized literature. Art and education were transformed forever by the utility brought out by the advent of this instrument.
UCCS recently featured an exhibit called “Gadzook!” at the UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art downtown. “Gadzook!” is a collection of contemporary art from artists that have used elements of the letterpress.
This exhibit was created to act as an artistic rendering of the literary revolution caused by the advent of the letterpress. Strange shapes with paint and ink, old advertisements and colorful collages line the walls of the gallery. The exhibit is visually striking, but it also has a deeper significance due to its reverence for invention.
The artists featured at this exhibit included Amos Kennedy, Anne Luben, Judith Poirier, David Wolske, Ladyfingers Letterpress and The Press at Colorado College.
Throughout the time this exhibit was open, patrons could talk with gallery artists and ask them questions about the art that was on display. Along with this, UCCS Galleries of Contemporary Art also hosted a film screening of “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” directed by Erin Beckloff that lended context to the art that was on display. The gallery was also host to a workshop for aspiring artists.
David Wolske’s piece stood out from the rest due to its use of color and line on a white background. The shapes for an image that has an almost Rorschach test feel to it.
The exhibit highlighted the history of the effect of this invention, which was once on the cutting edge of innovation. Innovators have a history of finding ways to use the movable typeface to improve the way printing has worked throughout modern history.
The press was used to create all kinds of printed media in multiple facets of life, religion, politics, entertainment and education. This inspired the artists involved with this exhibit to experiment with pushing the limits of the instrument in order to connect with its origins.
The result examined western identity through the lens of contemporary art. The exhibit was full of images, projections and collages with intricate details and subtle messages. The complexity and diversity of these projects was impressive, considering they all featured a common element.
The exhibit represents a unique intersection in disciplines. The art was all created by using an instrument that is limited by its primitiveness and made valuable by its innovation. The press was used historically in much the same way, using innovation to use simple mechanics to produce valuable results.
“Gadzook!” also demonstrates the importance of experimentation. The artists utilize a machine that has long become outdated to create something new. Many of these artists stumbled across things that looked interesting to them by just playing around with the old letterpress. This kind of experimentation was important to developing this tool early on in its existence.