Longtime Portland artist Tom Prochaska returns to Froelick Gallery with a new exhibition of etchings, acrylic paintings, and paper maché figures titled Baulmes. A tribute to the Swiss town of the same name in which he lived at age twenty, Prochaska most recently returned there in 2015 to celebrate his 70th birthday with his former host family, with whom he has remained in close touch over the intervening years. He worked at a printmaking studio there in his youth, and he was also taught a number of curious Old World skills- hunting mushrooms, burning oil for lamps, making stick brooms and such- which he likens to workmanlike printmaking processes.
These liftground etchings- a technique that allows a painterly brushstroke to be etched on to a copper plate- have the ambiguous quality of Rorschach blots. Curious emergent imagery suggests everything from geological features to microbial life to the heads of pointy-eared animals and people. Prochaska embraces the results of this abstract play, in which he moves materials around until something of interest presents itself. The paintings in this exhibit, all black and white, hint at buildings and scenery, barely-distinct figures going about their day. His paper maché people are rough, rustic, thoroughly human. Each work in these diverse media contribute to Prochaska's ongoing narrative of place, playfulness and work.
This exhibition was generously supported in part by the Ford Family Foundation.