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Robert Helm: Dream Prints: A Recent Portfolio of Photogravures

September 7, 2000 - September 30, 2000

Canoe, Ed. 35 (2000),

Internationally famed (yet surprisingly ignored by some local postmodernist pundits), eastern Washington painter and assemblagist Robert Helm has just completed an eighteen-month collaboration with poet Loretta Bonnier Anawalt: a portfolio of photogravures and verse titled Dream Prints, published in an edition of thirty-five by Beta Press, Seattle. Helm is not essentially a printmaker, but when Seattle Art Museum's Patterson Sims wanted a unique image for an Artfair/Seattle 1995 special award, he turned to this artist, convincing him that, with proper care, one of his paintings could be reproduced as a handsome photogravure. The process (now industrially superceded by high-speed offset lithography) is one of printing from an intaglio plate prepared by photographic methods. The artist was obviously convinced of future possibilities. Not only is Helm's work characterized variously as ìicons of stillness,î ìpost-Magrittian celebrations of subjective associations,î and ìstrange neo-trecento renditions of rural Americaî; the pieces also possess a distinct literary cast. It is therefore not surprising that Helm would enter into collaboration with Anawalt in which thirty-two of his most characteristic images would be interposed with her poems. This does not mean that the images illustrate the poems or that the poems are interpretations of the images. Rather, both are linked by ambiguous mood, surreal qualities, tonalities and weighting. The structure of a portfolio (part book and part de-mounted exhibition) is also perfectly in keeping with the intimacy and contemplativeness demanded by this potent content.

© Ted Lindberg