Volume 18 • Issue 52 | May 12 - 18, 2006

Downtown Express photo by Luanda Lozano

“Six Mile Run, Series No. 2,” a photogravure and auquatint print made by Bob Shore, is among the pieces on view at the Manhattan Graphics Center, which is hosting a 20th anniversary exhibition through May 31.

Artist-run Manhattan Graphics Center celebrates 20 years

By Lorne Colon

The day of the artist-run gallery/co-op has passed its prime in the New York art world. Gallery-heavy areas like Chelsea, overrun with “for-profit” spaces, have made it hard for working artists to find ways to make prints, but the Manhattan Graphics Center, located just above Tribeca, sets a shining example of what a true artist-run organization can and should be. Run completely by volunteers, the MGC offers printmaking studios and classes at reasonable prices, and a cooperative system that allows patrons to have access to the center during open studio times in exchange for administrative help. It also regularly exhibits the work of those who have used their facilities. This “for-artists” formula has kept MGC’s doors open to printmakers at all levels for two decades, and its current exhibition celebrates this rich history.

The show is composed of artists who have come through the Center over the years, with varying styles and skill. There’s no pomp or posing along these walls, just lots of work by artists who love printmaking and who help others do so as well. Works are hung among the third-floor studios of the Center at 481 Washington Street, where it has resided for the last 10 years. Instead of installing the prints in yet another white cube space, they are surrounded by the very machines, supplies, and people who made them, showing viewers just how vital a place MGC is. The Center supports all major printmaking types, including silkscreen, etching, itaglio, lithography, woodcut, photosgravure and others. All of these print types and more are featured in the exhibition, which includes work from teachers, students, and the many volunteers of the MGC.

The breadth of the art on view is staggering; there is everything from traditional subjects and techniques to the most modern styles and imagery. “Shopping on Broadway,” for instance, a woodcut by Donna Evans, depicts a typical New York street scene, while an untitled work by Joan Greenfield uses intaglio to blend what looks like modern hieroglyphics with cartography. The quality of the work varies, but that’s what makes the MGC a true New York cultural treasure, since it’s one of the few places where artists on any level can convene to bring their ideas to life. Given the current upswing in the popularity of printmaking, thanks to artists like Ellen Gallagher, the MGC serves an indispensable purpose for the art community: allowing artists themselves to control their work, both in creation and beyond, affordably.

The exhibition is open through May 31st. Eight-hour blocks of studio time are always available, and the summer classes are now accepting students. For exhibition and studio hours, class and studio time prices, and other information about the Manhattan Graphics Center, please call (212) 219-8783 or go to www.manhattangraphicscenter.com.


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