Printing Impresses | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Each year, Artist Image Resource invites several regional professional artists who aren't necessarily printmakers to create original prints or print-related work. The Tenth Annual Projects Exhibition features an intriguing array of work made with equipment and expertise from the North Side workshop and gallery.

Ten black-and-white screenprints by Joseph Lupo utilize the iconographic speech and thought bubbles seen in comics. In the compositions, Lupo combines empty speech or thought balloons with geometric shapes composed of half-tone dots and lines. Prompted by Lupo's titles, and also how each object relates to another, narratives surface despite the lack of words. For example, in "Ready to wet the whistle, pal? Then take a hike. This ain't no rest home," numerous speech bubbles point toward one another, suggesting a conversation or, perhaps, an altercation.

Meanwhile, on the brick exterior of the North Side building that houses AIR, Lupo has painted a wall-sized mural of a single bubble with striped half-tone lines behind it. In this simple composition, Lupo imaginatively utilizes the imperfections of the wall to his advantage. Humorously, the large speech bubble makes us think about what the building itself might "say."

Lupo's work points to the power of imagery alone to create narratives. It's an interesting assertion in an art world that, until recently, has been excessively concerned with language-laden theory.

In the work of William Rodgers, a simple science experiment is expanded to create an intriguing collection of images. Rodgers constructed balloon-like shapes out of newspaper, then lit them on fire. He photographed or videotaped the fiery balls as they floated like hot-air balloons. At AIR, a 22-by-30-inch print illustrates instructions for constructing these balloons; 14 of them are displayed on a large table. Small Polaroid photographs and larger ink-jet prints portray different stages of the experiment. A large-scale video projection, meanwhile, shows Rodgers lighting the balloons; often the room he was in went completely dark, leaving visible only the fiery orbs, suggesting meteors in a night sky. Also in the room are impressively large ink-jet prints -- close-ups of the flaming spheres. These 80-by-120-inch prints are pixilated, not coincidentally, like grainy satellite photographs.

Work by the two other artists is equally engaging. Clayton Merrell's ink-jet prints of cloud photographs are embellished with colored pencils. In some, lines of mandala-like spheres in various colors are drawn onto the cloudscapes. In "Six Methods for Holding Together the Sky, Method #5," a web-like structure covers the clouds, keeping them intact. In "Ricochet Map," laser-like beams bounce from one cloud to the next. The titles, interestingly, suggest narratives not immediately apparent in the imagery alone.

Finally, Christopher Sperandio (with Simon Grennan) created a series of prints of bank buildings and briefcases designed to be cut out and assembled. Sheets of paper play-money fit neatly into the boxes, accompanying the briefcase -- just as stacks of already constructed banks and briefcases accompany the framed prints. It's all like pieces to a game that we don't quite know how to play.

Tenth Annual Projects Exhibition continues through Tue., Jan. 9. Artists Image Resource, 518 Foreland St., North Side. 412-321-8664 or

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