Anyone stepping through the door of the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery in Denver this month will be awed by a 6-foot-tall print of "Box Canyon" by John Walker.
Inspired by the North Routt canyon of the same name, the piece is a monolith of ink and paper that took three people more than nine hours to print.
¤ "The Riverhouse Editions: Master Prints by 44 Artists"
¤ On display through Nov. 10
¤ Victoria H. Myhren Gallery, Shwayder Art Building, University of Denver
It's a visually astonishing piece of art, but it's also a tribute to the skill of master printer Sue Oehme and the staff at Riverhouse Editions, where it was painstakingly rolled off the press.
"Box Canyon" is the entry point for a show of 44 artists published throughout the years by Riverhouse Editions in Clark. It's also the entry point for a new relationship between the University of Denver's art department and Riverhouse.
It started with a conversation two years ago, when Angela Forster came to Steamboat Springs to judge the "Digital Art 2003" show at the Depot Art Center. Forster is a professor in the electronic media department of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Denver.
While she was in Steamboat, she took a monoprint workshop from Oehme and was introduced to Riverhouse owner Bill van Straaten.
Eventually, an agreement was made for Riverhouse to gift one proof from every artist it publishes in the future for the education of printmaking students at DU. Riverhouse has a similar relationship with Northwestern University, where van Straaten and his wife, Jan, went to school.
With each edition printed at Riverhouse, artists sign an extra print known as the "college proof," which is donated to Northwestern's Block Museum of Art as a teaching gift. The college proofs are housed in flat files and are available for students to handle and study.
Riverhouse's gifts to Northwestern began with a retrospective show in 2001, much like the survey show hanging today in Denver.
Riverhouse will continue to gift college proofs to Northwestern, but each edition now will include a second college proof to be gifted to the University of Denver.
The show of 44 artists, hung to celebrate this gift and to introduce Riverhouse Editions to the university, includes work by some of today's most interesting artists.
Artists are chosen by Bill van Straaten and Oehme based on a vision of how their work might translate into the printmaking medium.
Louise Fishman, an abstract expressionist painter who came to Riverhouse this summer, was an artist Oehme had followed for 20 years. Artists stay at Riverhouse for two weeks, working late into the night and on weekends to create monoprints and prototypes for an edition of prints that Oehme and the Riverhouse staff publish during the winter.
The college proofs of the work done at Riverhouse will be used as a foundation for the growing museum collection at the University of Denver.
"This partnership is very important to us," said Dan Jacobs, director of the Victoria H. Myhren Gallery and curator of the university's art collection. "The gallery is part of the art school, and I've been really focused on ways I can integrate the gallery with the whole educational enterprise."
In addition to the college proofs, the university will send interns to Riverhouse and invite Oehme to teach regular printmaking workshops at the school.
"In a nutshell, we're not only excited about the exhibition but also about the partnership," Jacobs said. "It's a role model for how we can work with other organizations in Colorado."