Imprinting Tradition 

Three generations of printmakers carry on.

Printmaking is one of those art forms that began its life purely utilitarian in nature — more craft than art — and with the advent of newer, more convenient technologies (photography, in this case), moved slowly and quietly into the realm of art-for-art's-sake. Early printmaking technologies were technologies in the strict sense, part of the first wave of a burgeoning mass media, as printers of books and newspapers looked for ways to marry their texts with images. Printmaking has become a residual technology — one that lingers on as its "replacement" technology takes center stage — and has come to gather new resonances since its utilitarian uses have diminished.Berkeley Treasures: Three Generations of Printmakers not only showcases three local printmakers, but, by bringing together a mini-lineage of mentors and mentees, indicates how the form continues to reinvent itself. Emmanuel Catarino Montoya, the eldest of this trio, tends toward large format works, and in this series focuses on Mexican (pre- and post-Columbian) heritage. He takes on the very question of continuity in many of his works. In "Viva la Tradición," a sepia-toned band takes center stage — early Californian peasants playing a fandango, with an Aztec figure on the drums. Meanwhile, young mariachis surround the frame in the bright reds, greens, and whites of the Mexican flag.Miriam Klein Stahl, Montoya's student, figures history into her prints in a different way. The lead teacher at Berkeley High School's Arts and Humanities Academy, many of her works feature her own students — "Nick" is a tousle-headed boy giving us a bemused glance as a book lies open in front of him; "Bit," an African-American girl with a pierced lip, remains engrossed in her book. Stahl's technique tends toward a thicker line, and more direct and literal images than Montoya's, but we see his tutelage in the framing, care, and affection given to the faces of the subjects.Caroline Pennypacker Riggs, a former student of Stahl's from Berkeley High, experiments with the content of her works, creating imaginative, slightly surreal pieces. "Paper Planes" is a triptych of images of a boy sitting quietly against a wide white sky, paper airplanes progressively filling the empty space. "How I Got Carried Away," a series of eight works, spins its title both literally and figuratively as we are led through the stages of a girl raising a stork that becomes large enough to fly her away on its back, her arms wrapped tightly around its long neck. Berkeley Treasures runs through December 9 at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut Street, Berkeley. 510-644-6893 or BerkeleyArtCenter.org

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