Michael Woodcock’s current exhibit of lithographs charms and seduces through fabrications, quips and truths. At its core, this collection of fictitious postal ephemera proves intimate and accessible. Woodcock asserts the idea of narrative in the show’s title, which references the Empirical Philatelic Trust’s Bureau of Printing and Engraving, a playful adaptation of real organizations. Each lithograph offers the idea of a stamp, and Woodcock’s elaborate narrative and editorial comments lend an air of realism. Woodcock’s dirigibles stamp, homage to artist Donald Evans, reveals Evans’ work—hand-painted stamps from fictitious countries with intricate back stories—as Woodcock’s point of departure. The lithographs in this show offer more entry points into Woodcock’s work than his paintings typically do—perhaps because the images are wrapped in text presenting a semblance of storytelling. The volume of text here—which may be as private and obscure as in Woodcock’s paintings, offers multiple cues to what is, in some instances, esoteric content. Woodcock can be self-referential and self-deprecating; in one stamp celebrating National Postal Flyboy month, featuring the artist decked out in aviator cap and goggles, he appears a bit wacky, like an eccentric in a fantasy world. In another print, Woodcock is pictured as a Bulgarian master printer wearing the native headdress of his village—a garland of fruits, nuts and leaves. Often Woodcock’s work turns on odd phrases, obscure cultural or literary references or simply realities that exist in the corners of his mind, and this show is both intimate and a clever yarn.
Michael Woodcock lithographs at the Claremont Postal Ephemera Exhibition, Claremont Community Foundation Art Gallery, 205 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 398-1060. Mon-Fr, 9AM-5PM. Thru Sept. 25.