Screen printing in the spotlight at Opalka – The Daily Gazette


Screenprint Biennial 2018, presented at the Opalka Gallery in Albany, mixes the more traditional elements of the medium with its possible future.

In today’s world of digital imagery, it’s refreshing to see the physicality of pieces, especially since there are sculptural installations and works that seem to defy any frame.

This is the third biennale of screen printing, founded by Nathan Meltz, artist and lecturer in the arts department of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. He started screen printing in the 1990s when he was touring with a band and they needed to create a poster, which he describes as the gateway to the medium.

Although the digital age has since taken over, the Biennale argues that screen printing is still a relevant and important medium. Meltz said that even though our world is becoming increasingly digital, we still live in physical space and appreciate physical art.

“It’s in opposition to corporate media,” Meltz said. Screen-printed work is not subject to SnapChat or Instagram specific filters and image sizes.

While the medium is rooted in an age-old art form, according to Meltz, it was first used as a form of social protest by students at the University of Paris in 1968. The Political and Social Roots of Screen Printing are recognized within the Biennale, with pieces such as Briar Craig’s edited cover of an issue of National Geographic. In crisp, yet blurry letters, “White Wash Privilege” spills across the page. Next to it is a large class photo that looks worn, with some students looking away from the camera and looking at each other and others looking tired or surprised. “Shakespeare School Grade I Oct 1964 103” is written at the bottom and an image of a chair is superimposed over the class photo. The play, by Tyanna Buie, is titled ‘No School’ and draws attention to brutal racism and inequality in the education system.

Social commentary is also visible in Amy Cousins’ sculptural piece that combines newspaper clippings from the Houston Chronicle in the 1990s to create a large, crumpled newspaper that protrudes from the wall. It is titled “All the Queerness That’s Fit to Print: The Houston Chronicle 1990”, and is peppered with titles such as “Homosexual Content Believed Low” and “Mother Worried About Daughter”.

The center of the exhibition presents an immersive and unmissable installation that gives viewers the impression of having been immersed under water and seeing some coral reefs. Suspended from a mesh configuration not far from Opalka’s high ceiling are these colorful screen-printed patterns that resemble Alcyonacea, black cora and other coral reef-like objects. It is difficult to resist the installation, called “Sistema”, by Sheila Goloborotko, just like entering it and passing your hand through the work.

But if visitors are looking for more interactive works, they should start at the start of the Biennale with “Klaatu Barada Nikto” by Mark Hosford. The screen-printed piece looks digital with a robot skull in the foreground and streaks of yellow and orange running through holes in the floor. But there’s another image/animation that only comes to life when visitors view it through an accompanying iPad.

The idea comes from the 1951 film “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, in which an alien named Klaatu comes to earth with his robot bodyguard Gort. Klaatu befriends some humans, but many don’t want him on the planet and end up killing him. Gort goes on a rampage, and it isn’t until one of his human friends says “Klaatu Barada Nikto” that Gort goes into power saving mode. Klaatu eventually returns to warn the humans that their technology is developing faster than they realize.

According to Meltz, the piece sheds light on the hybridity of screen printing and perhaps its future.

The 33 artists presented in the Biennale come from all over the world and from all age groups. There are established artists, as well as some who are still students. The jury exhibition combines the works of these artists in a way that matches the reputation of screen printing as an elevated form of stencil. But it also takes him into the next century, arguing that the medium will not soon be left behind or lost in the mix of this constant stream of digital imagery, especially with artists of this caliber to carry on the tradition. .

“Screenprint Biennale 2018” will continue until December 14. At 6:30 p.m. on Friday, December 7, the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company will perform in response to the exhibit. For information, visit

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