Kelly Pyzik, Editor-in-Chief
“Spaces,” a Smith Gallery exhibit by Cal Froikin ’16, is an exploration of visual depth through printmaking. Froikin’s paintings and paper prints are the culmination of several semesters of experimentation with printmaking, including work from a summer job and a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Professor Matthew Kluber, Art.
“I’ve been doodling on the sides of my papers for school since I was little, just little abstract marks that are sort of intuitive or improvisatory,” Froikin said. “It’s not absent-minded, but everything in here starts from those drawings. … [With printmaking,] instead of spending a couple of hours doing one small thing, you can make stencils that you can repeat over and over and over, and that’s pretty much how all of the paintings have come to be. The repeatability of these abstract forms is very interesting to me.”
Froikin’s geometrically and spatially complex paintings are made with layers and layers of paint printed from five or more different stencils. He described the process of creating the painting on the right side of the Smith Gallery’s west wall. The work features a strong slashed line across bright colors blending in with one another, all fenced in with a dark blue.
“There are a bunch of color gradients and having a hard edge creates definition,” Froikin said. “Before I put the dark stencil down, it was neither positive or negative imagery. Having something to contain it both makes the darker image more distant and also gives people things to look at, different compartments to move throughout.”
While working at a fine arts print shop in New York last summer, Froikin learned about large-scale screen printing and was given the opportunity to create a few editions of his own prints on paper, some of which are featured in the show. This experience also gave rise to the show’s name, “Spaces.”
“While I was there I became pretty interested in the blank expanse of paper as a space, which some artists will shade in or use perspective or something like that, but even with the [print] on the very far left with the thin strip of white, nothing is printed there but it becomes a part of the image,” Froikin detailed. “The blank sheet of paper is the space I end up manipulating or layering different imagery on top of in order to create depth.”
Froikin finds that his paintings become more visually interesting the longer you spend looking at them.
“A lot of people say when they look at the paintings that certain things recede or come forward, it sort of takes them in. I’m still trying to figure out how to get people to spend more time in front of them, because … your body in relation to the piece, the space in between that your eye travels is pretty important to me,” Froikin said.
There are around 13 incomplete paintings in Grinnell’s studios begun in the same printmaking style as the other pieces in “Spaces,” which Froikin plans to finish when he returns in the fall of 2016 for his Ninth Semester Fellowship in Studio Art. For now, Froikin is content if people spend some time in front of his work and just enjoy the visual experience.
“You see the role of art in activism or expect it to have some sort of political or cultural motive, and I think that’s hard to do, which isn’t why I make non-representational things, but it’s made me think, what do I want people to do besides think, ‘This is cool’?” Froikin questioned. “When it boils down to it, I think that’s enough for me. I think there’s a beautiful thing that happens when somebody is able to connect with another individual through an aesthetic object.”