Rupert Deese: Five Woodcuts

Edition Review

  • Rupert Deese, Array 1000 (2012)

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Five woodcuts: yellow, green, dark blue, pale blue and red, image 100 cm diameter, sheet 45 x 45 inches. Editions of 15. Printed and published by Manneken Press, Bloomington, IL. $2500 each, $11,250 for the suite of five.
Rupert Deese, Array 1000 / Red (2012). Courtesy Nancy Hoffman Gallery and Manneken Press.

Rupert Deese, Array 1000 / Red (2012). Courtesy Nancy Hoffman Gallery and Manneken Press.

This is the fourth series of a projected five in the body of circular woodcuts that Rubert Deese has created under the collective title Arrays. Each series is defined by the diameter of the circle: the first three measured 350mm, 500mm and 750mm; the fifth series will be 1400mm across. This one is a perfect meter.

Like the other series, Array 1000 consists of five relief prints in different colors and patterns based on a nine-part radial division of the circle. The rules Deese has established require that all subdivisions of the circle articulate an equivalent area, whether that takes the shape of the classic narrow pie slice at the center or a thin extended arc around the periphery, whether the circle is divided into 27 parts (Array 1000/Pale Blue) or 1,152 (Array 1000/Dark Blue).

The lines that mark these territories are cut into the wood meticulously, but by hand. There are places where the spokes don’t meet quite perfectly, where one line ever so slightly overshoots its junction with another. These moments call attention to the physicality of the prints, their material history and presence in the world.

Deese says his work derives from specific landscapes, in this case the headwaters of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers in California. (He has built wall reliefs whose proportions reflect the topography of the two rivers’ watershed in the central Sierra Nevada Range. But there is no Ansel Adams pictorialism here—the landscape is reduced to a set of abstract proportions and relationships. It is hard, even impossible to see these prints as landscapes, but to see them as reflecting something larger than themselves, some intersection of the world outside and the structuring mind within, is easy.

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