The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, April 27, 2012, Arts

'Out of La Romita'

2830 E. MLK, 477-9328
Through May 19

The thing about Flatbed Press is that when you go to witness a new show, you're usually first treated to a display of beauty while walking down the hall to where the specific works are hung. This latest instance is no different.

Mark Smith – Flatbed's honcho, who recently moved out of Austin and is all too soon moving out of Texas entirely – said, gesturing along the embrightened walls of the multistudio venue, "These are from the past few years of projects we've done." Works, he pointed out, by James Surls, Julie Speed, John Cobb, Joshua Pickens, and even several artists whose first names don't begin with a J. Woodcuts, aquatints, chine colle lithographs: gorgeous, sometimes stunning (hello, Mr. Surls) visions transferred to archivable papers.

And that, as I say, is only the corridor leading to where "Out of La Romita" awaits your eyes. And that exhibition comes to you all the way from overseas. "During the summer of 2011," the show's flyer informs, "Flatbed master printer Katherine Brimberry led a group of artists to Italy to work at the La Romita School of Art, located in the hills above Terni, Italy, in a historic Capuchin Monastery." At Flatbed Press, now, far beyond the monks and the echoes of legionaries' footfalls, is a showcase of what came of that journey.

Chu Hui Pak's Year of the Dragon trio is a set of hand-colored monoprints with solar-plate etchings, darkling images framed in complex geometries of linework, looking like the illustrated portions of paper money from some land of giants. Enza Quargnali, the owner of La Romita, provides Arches, a mixed-media work of shimmering metallics that leads a viewer deep into the artwork's own structure: Imagine a hallway from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as remade by Erté, doorway after doorway staggering brightly toward a crimson terminus. Or imagine the Flatbed main hallway and yourself walking down it toward this new exhibition, to where Brimberry and the seven other artists have conjured shapes and shades in two dimensions with "polymer etching plates, experimental image-making, and printing techniques using water-based etching inks."

But imagination can take you only so far; we recommend an actual trip to the big working Flatbed space on MLK, a fine way station in the midst of your roamin' empire.

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