"Martin Mazorra: Language of Flowers" at O2 Gallery

Woodcut and letterpress brilliance brings a garden of visual delights

<i>Delerious Abandon</i> by Martin Mazorra
Delerious Abandon by Martin Mazorra

That whole language-of-the-flowers thing was a hoot, wasn't it, back in ye olde Victorian times?

Floriography, they called it. People of swell society sending each other bouquets of flowers, exchanging those little nosegays to wear upon their finest raiment, whereby folks in the know would get the messages intended. An arrangement predicated on the flower tansy, for instance, meant, "I declare war against you," but of course most of the myriad floral patternings were declarations of romantic love.

You know what else they used to do back in ye olde days? Woodcuts are what they used to do, long before linoleum was a thing. They say you could always tell a woodcut artist by the learning-curve scars still texturing their masterful hands (if not by the errant ink stains complicating a trade-specific apron).

The Brooklyn-based artist Martin Mazorra is not so old as all that – born in West Virginia in 1972, after all – but his woodcut creations and letterpress renderings are as solidly crafted and visually stunning as anything those old masters used to do with their knives and pigments and papers. And now Mazorra's large "Language of Flowers" collection is on display at Flatbed Gallery, and we're swooning like a lovesick swain from having witnessed them firsthand.

The long O2 Gallery walls are resplendent with multicolored handmade prints of Mazorra's floral works, accompanied by the artist's carefully set text that declares each flower's meaning and sometimes – this is so good – includes a bit of modern meta-commentary, a touch of snark among the wide-ranging suite of images.

"Flowers would say or emphasize what could not be spoken out loud," notes Mazorra. "I have added contemporary, solicitous twists to this tradition."

But really, it's the visuals here – the woodcut art itself, the varied vegetal world in all its vibrant profusion, and the colorful, expert printing on oversized French paper – that make this show a must-see. Which is still possible even now, because "Language of Flowers" is up at the Flatbed Gallery until Dec. 31, and so we'll pretend that this whole review is a bouquet of snowdrops we're sending your way. Because that, dear reader, means "joy to come."

“Martin Mazorra: Language of Flowers”

O2 Gallery in Flatbed Press, 2832 E. MLK, 512/477-9328
Through Dec. 29

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O2 Gallery, Flatbed Press, Martin Mazorra

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