Sum of the parts

Artists combine separate works to form a viable, thought-provoking whole

An artwork doesn't have to be a single painting or drawing. Sometimes, a work is made of a series of pieces that together form a larger image, explain a story or investigate a concept.

That's the premise behind "Sum of the Parts: Recent Works on Paper," an exhibit of lithographs, drawings and etchings on display through Sept. 2 at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus.


Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

"Man, Spirit and Mask," a 1999 work by Willie Cole, is among the lithographs, drawings and etchings in "Sum of the Parts: Recent Works on Paper" at the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art on the Kansas University campus.

Since its beginning in 15th-century Europe, printmaking has lent itself to cycles, or sets, of images. According to the exhibit's narrative, by the 16th century artists were exploring all sorts of subjects through such groupings as "the four senses," "the five seasons" and "the seven deadly sins."

The seven deadly sins have appeared in the graphic arts since Pieter Bruegel the Elder used the theme in 1560. Two works in the Spencer Museum exhibit are based on that theme: one by the late William S. Burroughs, who lived his final days in Lawrence; the other by artist Dan Kirchhefer, a KU alumnus who teaches at Emporia State University.

Burroughs' "The Seven Deadly Sins" is a series of shotgun-woodblocks and screenprints made in 1991. The work is made up of seven sheets of text about the deadly sins and seven sheets of corresponding images. The colorful work is in line with viewers' sight when they enter the gallery.

In February of that year, Burroughs used a 12-gauge shotgun to shoot the woodblocks. The screenprint component was composed later and the text written by Burroughs between February 1991 and July 1991, according to the exhibit's narrative.

Kirchhefer's seven-piece series, "The Seven Deadly Sins," was created in 1987. The mixed intaglio pieces are smaller than Burroughs' and less imposing in exploring the sins of lust, temper, gluttony, avarice, pride, sloth and envy. His self-portrait shows up in the work related to pride.

Other works in the show include:

� "We Will No Longer Be Seen and Not Heard," a nine-piece lithograph, silk-screen and chine colle by Barbara Kruger. Kruger's signature works are in a mass-media style. In this work she uses text and images of sign language to make a political and feminist statement.

� "The Bug Circus," a seven-piece series of color etchings showing insects with bits of graffiti and tattoo art in their environments. The work was created in 1991 by Tony Fitzpatrick.

� "Five Views of the Inscrutable Neighbor," a series of prints created in 1995 KU art professor Roger Shimomura that combines comic book art and traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodcuts. Shimomura's works often concern the inability of many Americans to discern the difference between Japanese and Japanese-American individuals and their cultures, the exhibit's narrative explains.

� "Man, Spirit and Mask," a 1999 work by Willie Cole. The first part, a self-portrait, uses photo-etching, embossing and hand-coloring with lemon juice. A pattern of an iron's steam vents is superimposed on his face. The second part, an iron, is created by screenprinting with lemon juice and scorching. The third part, a mask, is a mix of photo-etching and woodblock. The mask is in the shape of an iron.

The iron, according to Cole, is the symbolic conduit between African and African-American identity. He believes that when one culture is dominated by other, the energy, power and gods of the previous culture hide in items of the new culture.

� "S&H; Green Stamps," a rubber stamp and acrylic on paper work made by pop artist Andy Warhol in 1962. Warhol was known for using everyday objects, such as a Campbell's soup can, in his artwork. The work shows the S&H; image stamped in rows to create the effect of a perforated sheet of stamps.

� "The Return to Goya's Caprichos," an eight-part etching and aquatint made by Mexican-American artist Enrique Chagoya in 1999. "The Caprichos" is a series of 80 satirical prints etched by Francisco Goya in 1799 that concerned humans' imperfections. Chagoya brings the prints up-to-date. For example, in one print Goya made fun of witches who tried to enhance their appearances. In Chagoya's work, the witches are replaced by Sen. Jesse Helms and Jerry Falwell, who have mutilated Tinky Winky, the purple Teletubby they identified as being a symbol of gay pride.


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