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Printmaking among indigenous artists on display at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art

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The art of printmaking has been around for hundreds of years, dating all the way back to the 15th century. By the 1950s, it was becoming increasingly popular as an important art form. Now, a new exhibit at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, 555 Elm Ave., in Norman explores printmaking among indigenous artists.

Enter the Matrix: Indigenous Printmaking opens at 7 p.m. Thursday with a lecture by Heather Ahtone, the museum’s James T. Bialac Assistant Curator of Native American and Non- Western Art.

“Printmaking is a highly technical medium that encompasses several processes, all of which use some kind of matrix to pass the image to the surface,” Ahtone said. “Some of the most common processes people are familiar with are serigraphy, or screen printing; etching; or lithography — each of which requires manual attention to the printing process, and that makes each print an original work of art.”

Ahtone said printmaking is different from the mechanical reproduction commonly used in posters and other printed materials, where there is little variation between prints. Fine art prints are each manually pulled and represent the skills of both the artist and the printer.

During the latter part of the 20th century, Ahtone said Native American artists began using the medium more actively and the majority of this new exhibit is from this more recent period.

“There are almost 100 works in the gallery presenting the scope of where printmaking has been developed as a medium,” Ahtone said. “The exhibition includes art from across North America ... collaborations done by Native American artists working with indigenous people from New Zealand to Botswana. In addition to the art, we’ve prepared didactic materials that can help explain the processes and where key sites for printmaking are located.”

Enter the Matrix includes art from the museum’s permanent collection and works on loan from Crow’s Shadow Institute in Pendleton, Oregon; the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; and the private collection of Melanie Yazzie in Boulder, Colorado.

To accompany the exhibition, the museum worked with the University of Oklahoma to develop itsfirst iTunes U course.

“We identified key topics that recurred within the exhibition checklist and then developed the course to address these themes,” Ahtone said.

The exhibition offers insight into printmaking sites and people, and the iTunes U course further explains what is happening within the themes that are important to the artists. Using the Internet, the exhibition is able to explore whether audiences will be interested in learning more through the iTunes digital content, which includes podcasts, videos and other multimedia.

“We are very interested in connecting with people through the art, and the short course is an additional tool for us to use,” Ahtone said.

The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 17, 2016, and it is targeted to people who want to learn more about printmaking within the indigenous community.

“We will have something for those who are already learned on the subject and for those who are interested in learning more,” she said. “The art is amazing, and there are several works I think will really excite people to see in person.”

Print headline: Fit print, A new exhibit explores the age-old art of printmaking with 21st-century technology.

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