An exhibition at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey (PCNJ) offers a rare chance to see works by two influential New Jersey artists who have shaped the development of printmaking in the state.
“Roots and Rites: Works by Judith Brodsky and Peter Chapin” opened earlier this month at PCNJ and will continue through December 31. Marking the Center’s 40th anniversary year, the show celebrates the commitment of both of these artists to printmaking. Ms. Brodsky and Mr. Chapin were the moving hands behind two of New Jersey’s most important printmaking institutions.
Mr. Chapin was one of five New Jersey artists who founded the Printmaking Center back in 1973, when it was known as the Printmaking Council of New Jersey. Ms. Brodsky, Distinguished Professor Emerita of the Department of Visual Arts at Rutgers, is the founder and former director of the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper, renamed the Brodsky Center in her honor. This is the long-time Princeton resident’s first exhibition of new work since 2010.
Of late, Ms. Brodsky has been so focused on curating shows by other artists that she has had little time to devote to her own artistic endeavors. In conjunction with Ferris Olin, with whom she co-founded and co-directs the Rutgers Institute for Women and Art and The Feminist Art Project, a national program to promote recognition of women artists, she curated “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art, and Society” last year. The exhibition and accompanying events and book focused on women artists, filmmakers, writers, and composers of the Middle East.
Recently, Ms. Brodsky completed work on a catalog and traveling exhibition of a decade of work by painter Basil Alkazzi, which will arrive at Rider University in February.
“I wasn’t in my studio very much until the PCNJ asked me to have an exhibition there in celebration of its 40th anniversary,” acknowledged Ms. Brodsky. “It was wonderful because it gave me a deadline that would help me shift gears from curatorial and other organizational activities to concentrating on my own work again.”
In September, the artist worked “night and day to finish 10 large pieces that make up the PCNJ exhibition.” Half of them are etchings and the other half consist of digital collages and drawings, part of a new project called “The Twenty Most Important Questions of the 21st Century.” “I was inspired by a list I saw in the science section of The New York Times at the turn of the millennium and that has been on my mind ever since,” she explained.
On view here are the first 10 of Ms. Brodsky’s 20-piece series inspired by the millennium questions. They are large by print standards, one is five feet in length, and bear thought-provoking titles such as What Came Before the Big Bang, How Does the Brain Work, Why Do We Sleep, Can Science Prove There’s a God, and Will We Go to Mars. How Many Body Parts Can Be Replaced, shown here is one half of a male/female a diptych.
Created using digital and traditional mark-making techniques, Ms. Brodsky’s visually provocative images strike a balance between content and formal qualities. They prompt the viewer to an intellectual as well as an emotional response. The artist has said that she has always thought of her work as “visual responses to, and documentation of, the defining elements of the era in which she has lived.” Always conscious of history she believes that people in the future will learn about our time through works of art.
For the exhibition, Ms. Brodsky shares space with fellow printmaker Peter Chapin. Originally from New Jersey, Mr. Chapin now lives in New Mexico. “Works by the two of us make a nice combination,” commented Ms. Brodsky, whose work is in the permanent collections of the New Jersey State Museum, the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, the Library of Congress, the Zimmerli Art Museum, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, and Berlin’s Stadtmuseum, among others.
Mr. Chapin’s drypoint prints, other works on paper, and acrylic paintings are in the collections of J. P. Morgan Chase, Prudential Insurance Company, and the estate of Elaine deKooning. He served as executive art director of the Printmaking Council of New Jersey and co-directed Skylight Conversations in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
“Roots and Rites: Works by Judith Brodsky and Peter Chapin” runs through December 31 at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, 440 River Road, Branchburg. Hours are: Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call (908) 725-2110, or visit: www.printnj.org.