Happy Birthday to Black-Eyed Press on Sixth Street in downtown Racine

Black-Eyed Press is an amazing place. It’s a cooperative print shop, gallery, and a small press. It opened about a year ago and is continues to pump out quality art exhibitions and programs for students and artists.

Located at 312 Sixth Street in Racine, Black-Eyed Press is just next door the Racine Arts Council ArtSpace Gallery (RAC) and is within easy walking distance to Racine Art Museum. Unlike Racine Arts Council gallery, Black Eyed Press is open most days (T-F 11am-5 pm, Sat. 10am-2pm), and anytime I stop in, there’s something interesting going on.

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What is a cooperative print shop?

A cooperative print shop is a printmaking studio—with presses, print drying racks, worktables, etc.—that artists join so that they can use the equipment and other resources. For a small monthly fee, artists become co-op members and are folded into this community of artists.  Co-op members exhibit their work in Black-Eyed Press’s second floor gallery, which is also an art books library.

This co-op is a good place to learn new printmaking techniques and to meet people that talk about art.  Black-Eyed Press director, Samira Gdisis, is an experienced printmaker and a generous teacher. Whenever I drop into this gallery I find lots of activity. There’s often a class underway in the workspace with kids or adults learning how to make prints or handmade books. Sometimes a few co-op members are working in the studio space.

Gdisis usually works the desk and is eager to talk about the artwork exhibited on the walls.  Gdisis actively promotes the gallery’s featured artists—a real benefit to exhibiting at Black-Eyed Press.  A recent UW-Parkside art department graduate, Gdisis puts interns to work curating small exhibitions and supports local printmaking by regularly inviting “resident” artists to work and exhibit at the press.

This new business needs our support: become a co-op member, take a class, give a donation, purchase an artwork, and show up at an opening! Black-Eyed Press has great music on Racine’s First Fridays.

 Multiple exhibitions venues

Black-Eyed Press generally has numerous small exhibitions running at the same time. An excellent exhibition is currently on view features Chicago painter Stephen Ursino, Milwaukee-based printmaker Jenie Gao and two of Racine’s very best artists Maggie Venn and Maurine Fritchen.  Venn’s dusky paintings are organized into flexible grids that can be rearranged on a whim or purchased and displayed individually. Similarly arranged in a grid are Fritchen’s small architectonic wall sculptures which are made of painted wood and suggest much larger architectonic structures. A single small print collage on canvas, Flowers,  by Chicago-based artist Gary Weidner hangs nearby. Purposefully hung in close proximity, these artists’ works are moody, poetic and soothing.  (Visit links to artist webpages for much better images of these artworks!)

Ursino’s medium format oil paintings surprise me. Dynamic colorful painterly abstractions, these canvases take impasto (very thick paint) in exciting directions. The thickness the paint and their rich color make them very tactile. My impulse is to touch (or even taste) them.  Gao’s gorgeous black and white woodblock prints are enticing at the same time that they are disturbing.  Knitting together incongruent objects—for example, a lovely little rabbit and the jagged, metal jaws of a hunting trap –Gao’s prints offer a delightful shock.

See also Jean Char’s brightly colored ceramic sculpture inspired by fairytales and folklore on view in the display case.

These shows run through the end of the month so stop in soon to get a look.

About Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs is the director of galleries and curator of exhibitions at Jamestown Community College in Western New York. She writes the blog "Scene Unseen: Viewing Notes" about visual art in her community.

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