House or Home: Architectural Form in the Print explores a common visual in artist’s work at Paulson Fontaine Press over the years. With prints produced between 2001 and 2014, each artist utilizes architectural line and space to convey the scene of a house or neighborhood. Through depictions using realism and abstraction, the variation in each work brings about the connotation of either a “house,” an impersonal space, often presented with an outside view to the onlooker, or a “home,” a space of memory, conveyed through the presence of distinct moments and distinguishable people within the scenes of interiors.
Like a three-dimensional architectural form, while each work may speak to a viewer’s own experience and memory, certain prints recall an archetypal house or building, impenetrable to the onlooker. Salomon Huerta’s prints show off the ideal American home, however through bright colors, sharp corners, and an eerie stillness, the discomforting perfection in his prints encourage the viewer to question what lies behind the pristine lawns and menacing trees in Untitled (Pink House), Untitled (Persian Blue House), and Untitled (Vermillion House). Christopher Brown suggests uneasiness in his prints through his exploration of visual perception. Fenced In and Red Square show a building’s exteriors through the combination of bird’s-eye and front-facing views. The concentric lines and patterning illustrate an image of a barn or house that is “partly real, partly televised, and partly invented,” (OKTP 2008) images of architecture that Brown recalls from childhood memories. Fresh Paint experiments in the printmaking medium through the layer of paint on top of the etching; with a painter set into the center of the seemingly diagonal building wall, the lines of wood shingles mimic the patterning from his other prints in the show.
The presence of human figure trickles into the collection of works in backyard scenes by Isca Greenfield-Sanders. In two out of four of The Swimming Pool Etchings, Green Suit Bather and Yellow Suit Diver, images of quintessential American summer backyards become quiet, unsettling moments, drawn from original photographs collected by the artist. The strange memories continue into Maira Kalman’s Five Stones and Blue Shoes where arrays of figures with minimal interaction gather together in two cramped, distorted rooms.
While Rojas and Kalman exhibit uneasiness in their presentation of the home, the interior scenes of Chris Johanson and Claire Rojas shift towards comfort. Johanson’s work Being in My Life #8, shows him and his wife, artist Johanna Jackson, contemplatively sit at their dining room table. Behind them, the architectural design remains open to show a warm, abstracted landscape, adding to the pleasantry visible in the couple’s interaction. Rojas similarly presents a couple at ease in their home; however the layout in her print utilizes geometric abstraction to enclose the couple within a cozy ceiling, wall, and window.
Lastly, the prints by Gee’s Bend quilters, Going Home and Housetop Block at My Mother’s Knees, by Louisiana Bendolph, and Housetop Blocks/Purple, by Mary Lee Bendolph, further abstract the architecture of a home. The production of the pattern, like with the artist’s quilts, derives from construction techniques: each piece is set and layered together like wooden planks or bricks. The “Housetop” technique, referenced by both artists, is produced by concentric squares of quilt (Arnett 2006: 210), and is one of the first patterns taught to new learners in the Gee’s Bend intergenerational quilt making tradition. The Gees Bend prints recall a bird’s eye view of a neighborhood, bringing the exhibition full circle towards abstraction used similarly by Christopher Brown, although here, reminiscent of the warmth and comfort that can only be recalled from a positive memory of home.