Flying Horse Editions has flown under the radar for much of its 20 years, but an exhibition at the Mennello Museum of American Art is changing that.
The printmaking studio was founded in 1992 as a community outreach program at University of Central Florida, but it started to come into its own when Ke Francis – an artist whose past exhibitions include the National Gallery of Art, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Smithsonian Institution – joined the Flying Horse staff in 1996, shortly thereafter bringing on current assistant director Larry Cooper. Over the past 20 years, Flying Horse Editions has built a national reputation and welcomed powerhouse artists from around the world; most local artists are aware of the press as a place to meet and work with prestigious out-of-towners. But it's been something of a secret to Orlando at large.
With the move in 2009 to UCF's Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando, the collaborative research studio has been gaining more attention. “The new space downtown has helped us be more visible,” Flying Horse director Theo Lotz says. Lotz is also hoping that the Imprints show will help get the Flying Horse name out. “We want to make Flying Horse better known in the community and get local visibility.”
With 20 years of work to choose from, Imprints is an eclectic collection. Art on display ranges from drawing-like etchings, such as Tony Eitharong's “Family Man/Family of Man (Trespasser)” to more avant-garde pieces like Al Souza's map of Orlando cut into intricate patterns. Flat, bright silkscreens by Ridley Howard, in a simplified figurative style reminiscent of Alex Katz, offer a view into the mundane nature of everyday life, documenting something as simple as sipping a glass of bourbon. This aesthetic is juxtaposed with Bill Fick's wild and flailing color reduction linocut, “Yummy II,” which resembles a hairy cactus or some part of Rat Fink's internal anatomy.
The exhibition is laid out with a simple logic in two rooms. A side room is dedicated to traditional methods of printmaking like woodcut (a relief method using a carved wood block, similar to a rubber stamp), silkscreen (ink printed through a stencil and a screen), letterpress (also a relief, usually of text) and lithography (a non-relief method using a chemically processed metal plate). This room also houses some three-dimensional objects and editions, such as a small table of hand-bound books by Cara Pentecost. Delicate and sometimes colorful, the petite books demonstrate how the boundaries of bookbinding can be stretched; one book even resembles a BLT sandwich. Flying Horse's Vandercook press has been temporarily relocated here to show Mennello patrons the process of letterpress printing at a demonstration table.
The main room, though, is dedicated to the attention-grabbers: experimental artwork like that map cutout by Souza. Many of these pieces incorporate some type of 3-D element, like Matt Nolan's scratchy prints of troubled-looking people with porcelain thought bubbles that jut out from the frame. (Tip: check behind the bubbles for secret text.)
A major attraction of this room is the huge display vitrine containing James Siena's “Sequence I” – a double-sided, hand-printed accordion-style book that stretches 17 feet long. The book is comprised of geometric shapes that change and grow in complexity as the pages go on, creating something similar to a story. The Museum of Modern Art recently purchased Siena's book for its permanent collection, where it will sit next to works by art history trailblazers like Warhol and Picasso.
The show also features an interactive element, with iPad stations throughout playing high-quality, step-by-step video demonstrations of various printing methods. The videos are the brainchild of Mennello's executive director and Imprints curator Frank Holt and Flying Horse director Lotz. They provide a personal element and a sneak peek into the Flying Horse studio and processes.
If you'd like a hands-on experience of those processes, Mennello and Flying Horse are teaming up to offer several workshops in conjunction with Imprints. April 28's Roll It! Community Printmaking Festival is a collaborative event for all ages, and May 1 brings a cutting-edge printmaking workshop for adults only: a linocut class inspired by the geometric patterns of Siena's “Sequence I,” led by UCF Print Collective artists. If you like a cocktail with your art activities, the Mennello hosts one of Flying Horse's beloved Letterpress Happy Hours May 10 – more of a social event, but guests will have the chance to set up letterpress type and create a personalized greeting card while mingling at the exhibition. Visit mennellomuseum.com/events.html for more information.
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