Cant Stop Wont Stop: Meditations on Resilience
New YorkLeroy Neiman Center For Print Studies
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Meditations On Resilience
September 8 – October 14, 2022
For 25 years the LeRoy Neiman Center has shown its dedication to printmaking by providing students and artists an environment to educate, learn, and work with master printers. To celebrate its long-standing collaborations with close to seventy artists, the Center invited affiliate artists to organize exhibitions highlighting work within its vast print collection. William Cordova is the first artist to organize such an exhibition. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Meditations on Resilience features work by Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones, and William Cordova.
Fab 5 Freddy’s editions, made in 2018, are high contrast silkscreen prints of iconic, influential, and subversive 1970s cultural figures such as Bruce Lee, Bumpy Johnson, Huey Newton, Jack Johnson, and Jim Kelly. The highlights are adorned with a layer of silver glitter and the remaining shadows reveal a soft black velvet substrate. Each figure is frontal and centered, accentuating their iconic status. The transfers of newspaper clippings and extracts from magazines are collaged in the background giving more detail and insight into the central figure’s historical accomplishments and reception. For instance Bruce Lee and Dr. Huey P. Newton studied and wrote about philosophies and theory, influencing their generation and those thereafter. The prints use UV sensitive ink visible in the dark, which adds to the myth of each figure as their presence shines day and night.
Like Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones came to prominence as a graffiti artist. To evade authorities he carried a suitcase full of spray paint, which made it appear as if he were traveling. His edition “Track Record” (2021) consists of twelve album covers each of which he tagged and painted with a unique graphic design. The whole is housed in a vintage Samsonite or American Tourister suitcase from that same era. The vinyl records reference albums Quiñones would listen to prior to going out at night to paint, such as Santana (Amigos), Santa Esmeralda 2 (The House of the Rising Sun), The Jimmy Castor Bunch (It’s Just Begun), and others. The suitcase editions vary from one to the next as the case is never the same, nor is the spray paint can it houses, and each tag on the album covers are unique so we can feel the spontaneous, fast, and focused attention of the artist in each instance.
William Cordova shares with Fab 5 Freddy and Quiñones a love for the city and art as tools of resistance against injustice across generations engaging in civil disobedience. His work directly engages the Harlem community around the LeRoy Neiman Center and includes a set of small scaled monoprints, even smaller scaled unique polaroid prints made using a Brownie camera (Kodak N1 camera from 1889) documenting close-up detritus collected from the neighborhood as well as shots of Hiram Maristany’s photography, and a record made on x-ray film (it plays Harlem street noises) all of which are housed in a laser etched wooden box sculpted with dials, knobs, speakers, and handles imitating a 1970s radio boombox. This edition print “on the lower frequencies i speak 4 u” (2019) engages the master printers working with Cordova in dialogue with the local community by collecting brownstone dust and mixing it with pigment, running a metal chain through the press embossing the paper differently as the chain breaks with each run, stapling a paper by hand in multiples, or using paint rollers that smudge and blend colors together as a monoprint. Each print edition is a riff off of the ones with the same DNA, and continuously asks the printers to subvert their tradition of replication by engaging in these rituals that contribute to a unique print edition.
Printmaking made a huge impact in history as one of the first means to make art or writing more accessible to more people through duplication. This exhibition contests the art of printmaking as a form of copying, while holding dear to its roots to carry and communicate through outreach. The LeRoy Neiman Center has created an environment rich in learning and growing for its students, printers, and artists. We cannot wait to experience its programming this year, which will certainly expand our understanding of printmaking.