Art in Print
January – February 2013
Volume 2, Number 5
New Editions: Rupert Deese
This is the fourth series of a projected five in the body of circular woodcuts that Rupert Deese has created under the collective title Arrays. Each series is defined by the diameter of the circle: the first three measured 350mm, 500mm and 750mm; the fifth series will be 1400mm across. This one is a perfect meter.
Like the other series, Array 1000 consists of five relief prints in different colors and patterns based on a nine-part radial division of the circle. The rules Deese has established require that all subdivisions of the circle articulate an equivalent area, whether that takes the shape of the classic narrow pie slice at the center or a thin extended arc around the periphery, whether the circle is divided into 27 parts (Array 1000/Pale Blue) or 1,152 (Array 1000/Dark Blue).
The lines that mark these territories are cut into the wood meticulously, but by hand. There are places where the spokes don’t meet quite perfectly, where one line ever so slightly overshoots its junction with another. These moments call attention to the physicality of the prints, their material history and presence in the world.
Deese says his work derives from specific landscapes, in this case the headwaters of the Merced and
Tuolumne rivers in California. (He has built wall reliefs whose proportions reflect the topography of the two rivers’ watershed in the central Sierra Nevada Range. But there is no Ansel Adams pictorialism here—the landscape is reduced to a set of abstract proportions and relationships. It is hard, even impossible to see these prints as landscapes, but to see them as reflecting something larger than themselves, some intersection of the world outside and the structuring mind within, is easy.
ARTnews June 2012 p. 91
A California native and avid outáoorsman, Rupert Deese has based much of his work on the watersheds of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers, flowing from The Sierra Nevadas through the state’s Central Valley. His earlier paintings featured pyramidal shapes that appeared locked like mountains in an abstract landscape, calling to mind Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. Others contained bull’s-eye patterns suggestive of water droplets or the strata of the earth.
In this show, five monochromatic woodcuts (all 2012) from the artists ongoing “Array” series, which he began in 2005. were arranged from the simplest work lo the most complex. establishing a kind of abstract narrative. The compositions lay somewhere between geological studies and Minimalist abstractions, and build on a design Deese developed to portray the topography of the region. Viewers may at Firsî want to read these works as maps, but that would be misleading, since they bear no direct relationship to The Landscape. Instead they’ are more like excavations from the artist’s own experìences in nature, and they exude a sense of quietude and calm.
Each tondo-shaped print was broken into nine wedge-shaped segments, which were then subdivided by smaller radial lines and inscribed circles. Subtle flaws from the mechanical printing process gave the otherwise pristine works an earthy, weathered feel. The first piece on view. Array 1000/Pale Blue, made of 27 Liles tinted the color of the California sky. resembled a readout from a radar screen 0r. perhaps, a dartboard. Subsequent prints in aqua green, golden yellow, and rust red were more intricate, and proved more compelling.
The final work. Array 1000/Dark Blue, a striking mosaic composed of more than 1.000 tiles, suggested the rings of a redwood tree. As in nature, the patterns here seemed to unfold in mysterious and intriguing ways, with a logic all their own.