SLOMA’s monthly art doc screening is back with a longer-than-usual offering in Art Is … the Permanent Revolution, a comprehensive study of the intersection between printmaking and political action covering the history of the medium. This theme pairs well with several of this season’s exhibits at SLOMA, including the recent Central Coast Printmakers biennial, Pushing the Limits, which closed on May 11, and the Cuesta College Student Printmakers, currently on view. Some of SLOMA’s past offerings, despite being consistently engaging, have been more vaguely connected to its exhibitions, but this one is spot-on.
Directed by Manfred Kirchheimer, Art Is … the Permanent Revolution divides its time between current practitioners of printmaking Sigmund Abeles, Ann Chernow, Paul Marcus, and others, and the art stars known for their work in the medium, including Honoré Daumier, Albrecht Dürer, Francicso de Goya, Picasso, and Otto Dix. From Daumier’s glimpses of the horrors of the French Commune to Dix’s eerie world-between-the-wars Expressionism, Kirchheimer has no trouble making the argument of printmaking’s power as a political tool throughout its history. The stark, often satirical, largely black-and-white medium is the message—what Marcus describes as its “graphic immediacy.”
The passion that Abeles, Chernow, and Marucs share is evident; some of the few voices we hear in the film are theirs. Rather than offering a great deal of narration to direct the viewer’s thoughts about the work presented, the work is, for the most part, allowed to speak for itself.
Above all else, the film is a look into the processes of lithography, etching, woodblock printing, and related techniques—through copious shots of artists like Abeles, Chernow, and Marcus at work, punctuated by print after print both contemporary and historical. The aforementioned minimal narration and deliberate pacing put the works at the fore, rather than sacrificing content for style. It’s less of a film, really, than an extensive, print-packed art book with a soundtrack.
Art Is … the Permanent Revolution screens at SLOMA on Monday, June 16 at 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $5 for members and $7 for non-members (insider tip: bring exact change). And even if you don’t manage to plan your revolution by the next morning, at least you’ll know 82-more-minutes-worth of information about printmaking!