Sonnenzimmer (Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi)
Two-color relief, one-color lithograph and two-color screenprint, 18 x 24 inches. Edition of 50. Screenprinting by the artists, relief and lithography printing by Angee Lennard at Spudnik Press, published by Spudnik Press, Chicago, IL. $150.
Sonnenzimmer (Nick Butcher & Nadine Nakanishi), Mitgusto (2012)
Semi-figurative forms, multicolored stripes, intersecting diagonals of color and line: in Mitgusto pairs of images are placed in opposition, introducing conflict and the rising/falling action of a dramatic structure. Utilizing three different print methods—red lithographic line, yellow and mauve woodblock relief, blue and black screenprint—Mitgusto hovers on the cusp of representation and abstraction. Artist-designers Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi comprise a small print shop on the north side of Chicago; their music posters, album covers and other printed ephemera are immediately recognizable for their delicate color relationships melding—Bauhaus-like—the organic brush-forms of painting with the harder edges of abstract shapes. Freed from the text that enters (by design and necessity) into many other Sonnenzimmer editions, Mitgusto is able to revel in the exuberant, the whimsical, and the absurd.
As I see it, Mitgusto is a glass raised in good cheer, a task done with enthusiasm, just for the fun of it. Here, a red line marks an origami fold, or perhaps offers an architectural possibility: a Frank Lloyd Wright house overlooking a flowing, gushing river. The transparent blue-grey mass filling the lower half of the image is made aquatic by the subtly darkened bleed along its wavering upper edge (an effect of a newsprint mask on the screen). Thin, black vertical bands rain down into the field of blue. Indeed, in Mitgusto it seems as if everything is floating impossibly. A joyfully buoyant limb lifts its sneakered appendage, forming a delicate, triangular composition. What could be a dark, oversized head lurks comically behind a striped partition. Does this furtively protruding black swath of hair have an opinion on its equally leaflike status? What holds the shoe in mid-swing, so entirely off-kilter? Might this high-stepping sneaker seek freedom from its watery abode? It is this duality between figurative and abstraction that delights, and the narrative movement circulating between forms that breathes life into this lighthearted composition.