The first time I saw John Ross’ print, “Homage to The City”, was in a book he co-authored with Clare Romano and Tim Ross, titled The Complete Printmaker: Techniques, Traditions, Innovations (1972). The Complete Printmaker, maybe smudged with ink and pages marked with post-it notes and underlined passages, stands ready as one of the rare “bibles” for printmaking studios. In addition to carefully outlining print processes (some quite dangerous and possibly now illegal), the book overflows with practical examples,
a veritable catalog of possibilities: of techniques to be mastered, colors to be mixed, and textures to be perfected.
Technical scrutiny often makes artworks more precious when we finally see them up close.
To find Ross’ print in a drawer here at the AP/RC reminded me of why printmaking is important . “Homage to the City” impresses with its creation from simple materials. The matrix was assembled from carefully cut card stock and gesso using collograph techniques, but the composition’s meticulous layout realizes each building with distinct details. Windows, cornices, roof lines, arches, and friezes have been excised in relief in card stock matrix across three 30 x 22 inch panels. The cityscape’s character relies on architectural icons, collaged in an amalgamation so dense that it includes part of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral sticking out of a 20th century office building, the Tower of Babel standing a few blocks from the Great Pyramids, and a Japanese palace next to a serpentine freeway winding away through a 20th century city. The tops of the buildings create a skyline never to be repeated. Ross’ interpretation honors these iconic landmarks.
This version of “Homage to the City” has been printed intaglio, but
others have been printed in relief, and in various colors. Such dexterity is an advantage of collograph matrices.