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Art: Day by Day

Clay Street Press offers a little more Germany in Over-the-Rhine

By Laura James · June 11th, 2007 · Visual Art
  Jochen Saueracker prepares one of his works at Clay Street Press.
Scott Beseler

Jochen Saueracker prepares one of his works at Clay Street Press.

Clay Street Press is now showing works by two print artists, Jochen Saueracker and Birgit Jensen, both of whom come from Dusseldorf, Germany. They work in different techniques within the printing world -- Saueracker in linocuts and Jensen in silkscreens.

The images they produce are worlds apart, and yet the source material seems mysteriously related.

Saueracker's linocuts are deceptively simple in appearance. Ordinary commercial images -- a steaming coffee cup, television sets, smiling potatoes -- fill up the Over-the-Rhine gallery's main space. Most of the images are small. All of them are eerily familiar, something you'd pick up from a magazine ad or a billboard.

In fact, Saueracker does track the ubiquitous images of -- in his case, German -- consumer culture.

According to Clay Street Press Owner and Curator Mark Patsfall, the artist "prowls the streets and markets of whatever city he happens to be in, box-cutter in hand, searching for commercially printed mass-produced labels and logos."

The series at Clay Street Press is entitled Tag für Tag or, to translate the German idiom, Day by Day. Saueracker begins his work by collecting boxes -- wood shipping cartons of vegetables, coffee, television sets -- and then cutting up the wood and rearranging it into beautiful collages, some spanning 6 feet. Though these collages aren't included in the Cincinnati show, ask Patsfall and he'll show you beautiful reproductions.

After making the collages, Saueracker starts on the linocuts -- a process of reduction. He almost directly copies the images found on his boxes onto a sheet of linoleum bit by bit. He cuts one detail into the linoleum, prints it onto archival board, cuts another detail and reprints until eventually the linoleum sheet has lost all its surface.

If you look carefully at Saueracker's images, the depth of each -- the numerous, successive, overlapping printings -- are unmistakable.

Jensen also sources a kind of common imagery, albeit in a completely different way. She uses silkscreen to create her prints; silkscreening is a more common print practice than linocuts. Once the artist generates a "stencil" of the images she wishes to use, that image is then easily applied to sundry objects, from T-shirts to skateboards to paper.

Jensen's work at Clay Street Press takes advantage of her medium, printing large "reproductions" of satellite images from the Mars Rover Mission onto plastic.

The Mars project is, to quote NASA public relations, "part of (our) Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. ... Primary among the mission's scientific goals is to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. The spacecraft are targeted to sites on opposite sides of Mars that appear to have been affected by liquid water in the past."

The images that Jensen reproduces are stills from the Rover's camera. While consumer culture isn't really the issue at hand in her silkscreen prints, she deals with another ubiquitous faction of global imagery: reconnaissance.

Both artists focus their eye on suggestions of who we are as a human culture. In other words, we're not the detritus of consumer culture that Saueracker picks up and we're not NASA or living on Mars. But both sets of images allow us to see our own cultures in a newly unambiguous light.

No, these images don't hold mirrors to who we are. They hold mirrors to what we do and what we seek. Grade: A-

DAY BY DAY features work by German print artists Jochen Saueracker and Bigrit Jensen at Clay Street Press through July 14.


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