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Indepth Arts News:

"The [Baren] Printmaking Exchange"
2000-04-03 until 2000-05-03
Skokie Public Library
Skokie, IL, USA United States of America

More than ninety woodblock prints from around the world will be on display in April 2000 at Skokie Public Library. This major exhibit is made possible through collaboration with the [Baren] Forum, an international online forum for woodblock printmakers. Local resident Julio Rodriguez is a member of the group and will share his extensive collection of prints with the public.

[Baren] is an Internet forum where woodblock printmakers can discuss, share, and instruct each other on the technical and artistic points of their craft. Started in 1997 by David Bull, an artist living in Japan, the forum has grown to a worldwide membership of more than 175 active participants. [Baren] also contains the Internet's largest online resource guide on woodblock printmaking. Membership is free and a daily email digest is available. All of [Baren's] resources can be found at http://woodblock.com.

The skill required to create a woodblock print makes it both an art and a craft. The artist carves a design onto a piece of wood. The wood is covered with ink, and a sheet of paper is laid on top of it. A tool called a baren is then used to rub the paper repeatedly, until the design is transferred onto paper. It is a time-consuming and painstaking process, but as [Baren] founder David Bull has said, if you like doing something, isn't it better if it takes a long time? While the process for creating each print is similar, the prints themselves are unique in their color, style, and expression.

Approximately six months after the [Baren] website was created, a group of members decided to share their prints with each other. They made multiple copies of each print by hand, and shipped them to other members around the world. The [Baren] Exchange was born, and members of the group have continued to share their art with each other in subsequent exchanges. The group is now focusing on showing their diverse collections to the general public through exhibits like the one at Skokie Public Library. Recent [Baren] shows were also held in Kyoto, Japan, and New York City. Exhibitions are planned for galleries in Uganda and Australia later this year. You can see prints from the various [Baren] Exchanges at http://www.woodblock.com/forum/exchange/index.html. The exchange website features each print, with comments by the artist and feedback from other [Baren] members.

Each of the exchanges has been unique. The fourth exchange asked each artist to carve a self-portrait. The results: twenty-nine self-portraits from all six continents, illustrating the artistic diversity of the [Baren] members. Julio C. Rodriguez, the Skokie artist showing his collection at the Library, offered this self-portrait.


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