When looking at an original Escher work, hanging on a wall a foot away, it is impossible to oversell it. The shading is so precise and the lines are haltingly delicate, yet so strong and breathlessly assured that being in the same room as those prints is akin to existing in a state of perpetual goose bumps. The body knows when it is around something special, something important, and reacts with the proper amount of gravity every time.
Atelier 6000 (or A6)—the presentation gallery for the M.C. Escher exhibit, 21 Prints—was founded by Patricia Clark in 2007 and, as of 2011, has become a nonprofit organization focused on printmaking and book arts. Run by interim Executive Director Julie Winter, A6 creates an environment where artists in residence can teach classes on the finer arts of bookmaking.
A6 has pulled off what amounts to an art world coup by staging this exhibit in Bend. This is the kind of show I would expect to see in Las Vegas or Manhattan, not in an unassuming building at the end of a cul-de-sac, squished between the Old Mill District and the industrial area where the Bend Fire Department trains rookies how to extinguish burning buildings. In looking for A6, I had my phone die and ran out of gas within minutes of each other, causing me to be an hour late for the meeting. Eventually, I found myself at A6, stressed out and embarrassed for my tardiness, but when I walked through those doors and saw those prints hanging from the wall, all of my concerns seemed insignificant.
"His work has something for everyone," says A6 volunteer and member Barbara Hudin. "It's so engaging. You're taken into another world when you look at his work."
What is so initially shocking upon looking at the 21 Prints exhibit is how diverse the work is. There are several prints of Escher's trademark impossible architecture with two-dimensional worlds blooming into seemingly three-dimensional ones, but there are also insects, landscapes and some of his bafflingly difficult geometries.
"There's mostly lithographs, wood cuts, wood engravings and one linoleum cut," explains A6 member Ron Schultz. "He approached it through craft. His effort was to show us, to give each viewer knowledge of their own perceptual limits. There's a part of us that looks at his work and wants to see this three-dimensional space, but it's really done on two-dimensional space. So at some point when you're studying the composition it flips into this other thing. It's stunning when that happens."
Stunning is the perfect description for what happens when looking upon this work. This is a world-class collection that A6 is exhibiting for the next two months and easily the most impressive showing of art in Central Oregon in at least the 14 years that I've lived here. The goose bumps took just minutes to wear off, but this sense of wonder I feel might last for a very long time.
M.C. Escher: 21 Prints
April 4-May 31
Atelier 6000 Presentation Gallery
389 Scalehouse Ct. Suite 120