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Michael Spafford: Prints

Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle
Jan 5 - Jan 28

The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs (1993),

Senior Seattle painter and printmaker Michael Stafford has frequently turned to classical Greek mythology for impetus in beginning his works. These venerable tales, after all, contain the very psychological ingredients that have been admixed in centuries of Western literature, art and music. Love and lust, hate and greed, loyalty and faithlessness, and most of all, the possibility of magic. To these sources Spafford adds the unpredictable assets of his craft: the ability to synthesize, re-invigorate and place a new "spin" on an old story. This is achieved not by emulating Greek art or decoration but by employing modernist methods of transcription. Spafford can register a line as economically clean and elegant as a Matisse or an Arp, yet surround it with a field as brutal and angst-ridden as a German Expressionist epic. His traceries can be as delicately intricate as Chinese paper cutouts. At some point the telling of the tale is goes unheard, as the formal aspects of the graphic work play out before the eyes. Spafford's woodcuts particularly emphasize his mastery of line and the manner in which positive and negative space can be turned, with the blink of an eye, into powerful competing abstractions. These shapes are not necessarily decorative, but in combination they express sensuous mood as succinctly as colour or tone.

© Ted Lindberg