Deb Todd Wheeler spent the first several weeks of 2011 at ningyo editions creating Holoplanktonica, a series of prints inspired by the 2004 exhibition Ocean Flowers: Impressions from Nature curated by Catherine De Zegher at The Drawing Center in New York. That exhibit collected a vast trove of 19th century prints, color plates, imprints, cyanotypes, and early photograms – “as ‘twere in Granf’r’s day” – of oceanic vegetation by artists and botanists alike. This new series collects an equally diverse trove of monotypes, collograph, woodcut and letterpress prints cataloging specimens of modern-day detritus resulting from plastic refuse accumulating on land and sea alike. (See also the Urban Dictionary’s definition for Urban Jellyfish)
Wheeler, who has been working on themes of the sea (and floating piles of plastic therein) for several years, experimented with us at ningyo to develop a technique of multi-layered monoprints. Using etching inks thinned with transparency, cardboard sheets covered in plastic were inked and printed onto Rives lightweight with various thin pieces of polyethylene plastic taken from plastic bags which Deb manipulated in various ways by cutting, melting, fusing and twisting. The resulting prints comprise a partial catalog of pressed plastic impressions of debris that seem to have been scooped from the sea and pressed between pages for posterity in this new book of Ocean Flotsam.
HOLOPLANKTONICA: an illustrated book of impressions examines the lasting nature of plastics churned over time in the chomping currents of the North Pacific Gyre, and how these specimens of plastic debris might resemble their oceanic cohabitants of algae, copepods and jellyfish, and might even in a sense start becoming a new form of botanica.
The exhibition includes 44 monotypes (each measuring 11.5 x 16″) serving as plates from this fictitious compendium, all labeled at bottom in letterpress printed by Mike Dacey at Repeat Press in Somerville. Additionally, an edition of 10 reductive woodcuts was created using monotype backgrounds as well as letterpress for the labeling text. The woodcut measures 16 x 23″ and is twice the size of all the other plates, serving as the central broadsheet for the book.
Holoplanktonica is on view March 10 – May 7, 2011. Opening reception – complete with 10 piece ukulele band playing songs from the sea – is on Thursday March 10th from 6-9.