Leon Loughridge's woodblock prints look as if they were created in the early part of the 20th century, perhaps by someone in the Prairie Printmakers group of regional artists of which Birger Sandzen was a part.
His prints have the attention to detail and old-school craftsmanship that are found in historical pieces, but there is nothing historical about them. Loughridge is a contemporary printmaker living in Colorado, and a collection of his woodblock prints is on view at the Wichita Art Museum through Oct. 3.
The exhibition of 50 prints in the museum's Kurdian Gallery explores the Western landscape, a subject that dominates much of Loughridge's work. Living and working in Colorado, Loughridge is inspired by the vast beauty of mountains, canyons, aspen trees and Spanish missions. All are common subjects in this particular collection.
Stephen Gleissner, curator of the Wichita Art Museum, describes Loughridge's technique of woodblock printing as one of the oldest in the world.
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"There are different methods of woodblock printing," he said. "The Japanese were using one method over a thousand years ago. Loughridge's technique is called reduction woodblock printing."
The artist begins by cutting out the first layers of a wood block, which are usually the broadest areas. Next, the artist cuts more away as detail and more colors are added. Each time the block is reworked, it is reprinted over the earlier impressions. The process goes on until all the layers have been printed and there is nothing left of the wood block.
"Loughridge's pieces average 15 to 20 layers of colors," Gleissner said. "This technique is quite labor-intensive and makes for very limited editions. There is no going back to fix anything once one layer is cut."
Loughridge studied formally at the Colorado Institute of Art, but it was while he was in the Army and stationed in Germany that he became interested in the field of printmaking. He is strongly influenced by the Prairie Printmakers as well as Japanese color woodblock prints and the old master printmakers of Europe.
Visitors to the exhibit will also have a chance to see works by three artists whom Loughridge has influenced.
"Loughridge brings so much of his own vision and feeling to his art," Gleissner said. "He is one of those artists who is passionate about that connection with nature and tries to bring emotion and spontaneity to his prints, even though the actual printing process might be viewed as very rigid."
Technology and digital media have no place in Loughridge's work, he said.
"It is so wonderful to see artists like Leon, whose reaction to the advancing technology is to remain firmly grounded and celebrate the oldest and most time-honored traditions of craftsmanship."
If you go
'Western Imprints by Leon Loughridge'
What: New exhibit of 50 prints by Loughridge
Where: Wichita Art Museum
When: On view through Oct. 3. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays.
How much: Admission is $7; free on Saturdays.
For more information, visit www.wichitaartmuseum.org.