We are just completing the installation for our current exhibition, “John Buck + Shark’s Ink.” which will have an opening reception on March 7th.
John Buck is an American artist known for his woodblock prints, sculptures of wood and paintings. He was born in 1946 in Ames Iowa. Buck is a master woodcarver, so making woodblock prints was a natural evolution for him. This exhibition features 21 of his woodblock prints made in collaboration with Master Printer Bud Shark over the past 30 plus years.
Shark and Buck began working together in 1983 as the artist recalls in the book, “The Legend of Bud Shark and His Indelible Ink” elegantly edited by one of our favorite curators, Cydney Payton, founding executive director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver:
In 1983, my artist wife Deborah Butterfield and I were asked to be the visiting artists in the art department of the University of Colorado, Boulder. We gave slide talks and visited with students. By that time, my curiosity in printmaking had led me to execute a few woodblock editions. But the school encouraged me to create a block for them to print. I don’t think they were really ready for the scale of my work or for how crude my assembly would be. It was decided top bring in an expert and in walked Bud Shark. He was a little uncertain whether the large woodblock format would work to make a successful print but he was willing to try. That print is titled “Beirut” and is the first in a long list of prints we have worked on together.
The woodblock prints in “John Buck + Shark’s Ink.” are, by any standard, enormous for the medium. The largest, “Sky Line” measures 92″ X 37″.
Most come it at around 75 in top to bottom. Like all the woodblock prints in the show, “Sky Line” immediately gets one’s attention with a strong graphic foreground image, in this case, a soaring anthropomorphic skyscraper After absorbing the force of this foreground image, the viewer’s eye slowly begins to take in the background of incised images that usually make a social or political commentary. And so it goes with all the stunning woodblock prints in the exhibition.
We have really enjoyed watching people get drawn in by the beautiful foreground image and then liger just looking at, and trying to understand, the incised tapestry of background imagery. Seriously, this is an exhibition that begs the viewer to pause and truly look and discover.
There’s also an actual wood block that Buck carved and used in the printing of “The Fountain“.
This woodblock actually looks like a jigsaw puzzle.
All the pieces fit perfectly together and can be removed and put back together. Nothing provides the viewer a more clear picture of how the woodblocks in this exhibition were made.
It also clearly shows us how a master woodcarver was drawn to the medium of woodblock printing.
John Buck said in “The Legend of Bud Shark and His Indelible ink”:
“Prints give me an opportunity to work on ideas that don’t hinge on the mechanics of balance. Very often the ideas from my sculptures feed my prints and vice versa.”
A particular favorite in this exhibition is the print titled “Green Fruit“.
This is an early print made by Shark and Buck in 1989. This edition has totally sold out as have all the proofs. We really wanted to include this print.
It’s an beautiful contemporary still life printed with watercolor and ink on Suzuki Handmade paper. This print happens to be in the permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (the de Young Museum and The Legion of Honor). It was included in an exhibition at the de Young, “John Buck-Woodblock Prints” in 1993.
Rob and I saw the print in a personal collection back in the early 90’s. And, we never forgot it.
Ever-faithful Roseanne from Shark’s found one last numbered print in their archive. We put it in a new frame with museum acrylic so the rich colors have no light interference, and it’s in the show.
What a find. Thank you, Roseanne; it’s even more beautiful than we remembered.
So, that’s a few words on our current exhibition.
We hope you can stop by the gallery and have a look. This one is a true honor to host.