The Pokrasso Effect
By Stacy Davies
The popularity of printmaking has been on the rise for the past several years—and with it a new generation of creators are exploring the multifaceted process that combines painting, drawing, assemblage and collage. Riverside Community College Quad Gallery’s “Pokrasso and Colleagues” offers a look at some of this new work as it pays tribute to printmaker and educator Ron Pokrasso, the many students he’s influenced, and his peers, some of whom have also been his collaborators over the past 15 years.
The show might feature work by over 30 artists, but Pokrasso’s visions take center stage. Often whimsical and dreamlike, his prints run the gamut in medium—digital inkjet, intaglio, collage, assemblage and acrylic paint on paper and wood. His choice of tools seems to directly affect the tone and emotion of the image, in fact: when he’s feeling playful, there is perhaps more assemblage and collage, when he is more somber (or, as Pokrasso might insist, when the piece tells him that it feels somber), there appears to be more drawing and painting.
Several of his older pieces have an interesting piano theme, and work exceptionally well. One such piece, Still Spreading the Word, is a testament to John Lennon, with the legend’s photo captured behind an oval frame set against a burnt orange swath of paint and splotches clustered nearby that might represent flowers. At the top of the frame is the piano pinblock and along the bottom, a few wooden keys. Across Lennon’s face and much of the paper he has scrawled the chorus from “Give Peace a Chance”—a message that resonates today as much as it did at the song’s inception. Other pieces include some vintage fun, such as Rockette Before I Knew Her, featuring a sepia-toned photo of a turn-of-the-century lass (looking much like Angela Landsbury from Gaslight, in fact) with the word “Dancer” across the bottom—a simple vision of a simpler time, extracted in gentle, misty hues.
Pokrasso’s newer works seem more nature-inspired, and Casts a Lasting Shadow presents an interesting juxtaposition of a tree shadow on one half of the panel that emerges from a bound woman on the other half (bound more as in wrapped up in a Snuggie than ropes, mind you). She smiles, unalarmed that she is contained within some type of restriction, perhaps too proud of what she is casting across the landscape to be spooked. There are many more remembrances and spiritual connections to be made through Pokrasso’s 24-piece exhibition, and all are worth the experience.
Making up the fourth wall of the gallery are the artist colleagues, and the breadth of their imagery and techniques are vast. Standouts include Eva Svitek’s Rain, a melancholy monotype of a woman seemingly held prisoner both within her own sorrow and behind an encaustic wall of time—whether those are raindrops or tears, or both, we can never truly be sure. George Comer’s untitled monotype of black, inky branches and spots of white water drops and puddles is nicely composed; Barbara Reid’s The Third Day, a snappy, surreal hillside with floating circles, is slightly otherworldly, which is what makes it most interesting, and Cathie Calhoun’s Let Nothing Contain You, a pink and gray mixed-media assemblage featuring a repetitious silhouette of a little girl in echoes or perhaps future projections is a most poignant message, especially considering bashing women is currently the new black.
Other works come from Leslie Brown, Nancy Macko, Alex Couwenberg, Karen Kauffman, Denise Kraemer and more, with each piece serving as both a companion to Pokrasso’s imagery and a voice unto itself, together forming a chorus of creative vision that energizes the mind and enriches the soul.
“Pokrasso and Colleagues” at Quad Gallery, Riverside Community College, 4800 Magnolia Ave., Rm 140, Riverside, (951) 222-8358; www.academic.rcc.edu/art/exhibitions.jsp. Mon-Fri, 10AM-3PM; Thurs, 5:30PM-8PM. Free. Thru April 6.