May 12, 2017

Block Printmaker Whitman

        Karen Whitman (USA, 1953 -) was born in New York City and that city is her chief inspiration.  Her scenes, therefore, tend to be very crowded and busy with a great use of interesting and varied patterns to differentiate between different areas.  I am especially drawn to her night scenes without people, which give that bittersweet feeling of being alone in a crowd.  The stark blacks and bright whites of night scenes are a great match with block prints, as are the strong shapes and contrasting textures of architecture.
        This first piece is very characteristic of Whitman’s work, with its rooftop water tower against a backdrop of city skyline and night sky.  Like many of her pieces, although there are no visible people, there are implied people.  Someone’s cat rests on the armchair they’ve put out on the roof, while an airplane crosses the sky, its own separate world.
        Next a more vertiginous view downwards into the space between buildings.  I love how the  tree and the water tower’s shadow are depicted without outlines, and purely by absence - a tree grows in the spaces between carved lines.  I always envy that look, but can’t quite seem to trust my carving enough to get there myself.
        The one light sky in this bunch is particularly interesting and impressionistic, perhaps even expressionistic.  Spots are an unusual choice for sky, but they work for van Gogh, and they work here.  The somewhat oppressive feeling is increased by the angle of the buildings and signposts.  Notice that all the signs and lights are shutting off the viewer.  On the other hand, I like the pigeons watching over the scene like benign spirits.

        Finally, another rooftop view with jumbled angles and even rather Seussian curves to the architecture.  There’s another cat, and for extra credit spot the water tower - there’s one in each of today’s pieces.  I confess I really like water towers, too!

        And here is my collection of W printmakers from prior posts:
Wormell, Christopher (no single post on Wormell, but his prints are sprinkled throughout this blog.  To find them all, search on his name in the “Search This Blog” feature in the sidebar.)


[Pictures: Moonlit Tower, linoleum cut by Karen Whitman, 2009;
Airshaft, linoleum cut by Whitman, 2003;
One Way, linoleum cut by Whitman, 2007;
Towers, linoleum cut by Whitman, 2000
(All images from The Old Print Shop).]



A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter W

1 comment:

  1. These remind me of a book of prints my father had from the 1940s. I like all of them, but the first one best.

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